Campaign

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

An Arizona Republican running to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R) issued a statement Wednesday disavowing her past support of Paul Nehlen, the white supremacist who ran against Speaker Paul Ryan (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 Trump drain the swamp,” she added.

While running against Sen. John McCain (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 McSally (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.

Tags Arizona Donald Trump Donald Trump Jeff Flake Jeff Flake Joe Arpaio John McCain Kelli Ward Martha McSally Martha McSally Paul Nehlen Paul Ryan Racism White supremacy

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