Arizona GOP Senate candidate: ‘I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon’

Arizona GOP Senate candidate: ‘I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon’
© Greg Nash

Republican Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward is distancing herself from Stephen Bannon following the former Breitbart News executive's dramatic break with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE.

“He was never part of my campaign,” Ward, a former state senator, said in an interview on CNN Thursday. “He was never an adviser. He was not somebody that I’d reach out and talk to in any way shape or form, so it’s funny that you and the establishment would love to tie me to Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonOur policies on immigration should be forward-thinking Ann Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE.”

Ward added that she is unsure whether she “ever got a full endorsement from Steve,” although she once touted his endorsement along with those her other high-profile backers, including conservative pundit Sean Hannity and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says Dems inflated Puerto Rico death toll | House cancels Friday votes | Florence starts to hit coast MORE (R-Ky.).

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Several advisers to a pro-Trump outside group that Bannon once used as his vehicle for campaign endorsements are working on Ward’s campaign. On several occasions over the last year, Ward also met privately with Bannon or attended Breitbart events where he was a featured speaker.

But Bannon has been banished from Trump’s circle following the release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” in which the former White House chief strategist disparages Trump’s family. Those remarks also cost Bannon his position as chairman of Breitbart News.

Bannon’s endorsement was once coveted by insurgent candidates like Ward, but many of those candidates are backtracking fast and siding with Trump in the explosive dispute with Bannon.

“I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon," Ward said. “He’s made some significant mistakes, significant gaffes that are unacceptable to me. I support the president, I support the president’s family.”

Ward is running to replace Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation Kavanaugh accuser says FBI should investigate before she testifies MORE (R-Ariz.). Flake, who is among Trump’s most vocal critics, opted to retire from Congress rather than face a primary that was certain to pit him against the president’s energized base of supporters.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned last year, jumped into the primary race this week, and Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates MORE (R-Ariz.) is also said to be mulling a bid.