Arizona GOP Senate candidate walks back past support for 'fringe' candidate Paul Nehlen

Arizona GOP Senate candidate walks back past support for 'fringe' candidate Paul Nehlen

An Arizona Republican running to replace retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (R) issued a statement Wednesday disavowing her past support of Paul Nehlen, the white supremacist who ran against Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Wis.) in 2016.

Kelli Ward told CNN that Nehlen's "recent views," including a racist tweet the alt-right commentator aimed at British royalty Meghan Markle before being banned from Twitter, had forced her to abandon her support for Nehlen.

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"Paul Nehlen and I both ran against powerful establishment incumbents in 2016, so our paths crossed a few times in that regard," Ward told CNN. 

"However, recent views espoused by Nehlen are outrageous and antithetical to my own. Nehlen and other fringe elements who hold similar views have absolutely no place in the Republican Party. I disagree with his statements -- none of which have anything to do with me -- and remain committed to running a positive campaign to support hard-working Arizonans and help President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeteran, state lawmaker launches bid against Democratic NC governor Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports Dozens of British lawmakers stand behind minority lawmakers amid Trump attacks MORE drain the swamp," she added.

While running against Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE (R-Ariz.), both Ward and her husband tweeted their support for Nehlen's bid in 2016. That was just months before he would go on to lose the election and appear on a white nationalist podcast hosted by Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist leader who was active at the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Time to change DC by changing who we send there @pnehlen @kelliwardaz will be game changers! #RetireMcCain #DumpRyan," Ward tweeted in August 2016.

"Give them hell tomorrow @pnehlen-hoping and praying for a spectacular victory over the GOPe tomorrow!" her husband, retired Col. Michael Ward tweeted a few days later.

Ward is battling two other Republicans, Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE (R) and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for the GOP nomination to run for Flake's seat in November. She currently leads Arpaio by 4.5 percent, according to a RealClearPolitics poll average, and trails McSally by 1 percent.

Nehlen would go on to be supported by other right-wing activists and allies of the president, including Ann Coulter and Stephen Bannon, before his appearance on Cantwell's podcast prompted them to drop their public support.

Nehlen is running again to replace the retiring Ryan this year, with Ryan opposing him and supporting his opponents

In 2016, he lost to Ryan in the state's primary election by about 68 percent, winning 16 percent of the vote in a head-to-head primary.