Flake says he's rooting for Democrat running against Steve King

Flake says he's rooting for Democrat running against Steve King
© Anna Moneymaker

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Ariz.) said he is supporting Democrat J.D. Scholten in his bid to unseat three-term Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Steve King unveils 'Diamond and Silk Act' named for conservative YouTubers MORE (R-Iowa) over King's ties with white nationalist politicians and groups. 

“We have a candidate on our side of the aisle who isn’t exactly making things easy for Republicans moving forward. It’s not the best face of the party,” Flake said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” 

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“Some of the statements he’s made over the years with regard to migrants coming across the southern border and more recent comments in this regard have just not been good for the country, certainly not good for the party,” he added, confirming he was talking about King.

The announcement comes as King faces intense scrutiny over his endorsement of a white nationalist candidate in Canada and comments that appeared to support the far-right Austria Freedom Party, which has historical ties to the Nazi party.

Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversLawmakers battle over HUD protections for homeless transgender people Lawmakers battle over HUD protections for homeless transgender people Lawmakers say major changes needed to expand access to affordable housing MORE (R-Ohio), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, blasted King’s comments and actions this week, tweeting, “Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”

A number of companies, including tech giant Intel Corp. and dairy company Land O'Lakes, have announced in recent days that they will no longer contribute to King's campaign.

The controversy appears to be having an impact on King's once safe reelection campaign.

A poll released Tuesday showed King ahead of his Democratic opponent by just 1 point. The Cook Political Report also shifted the race from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.” President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE won the district by 27 points in 2016. 

Scholten also enjoyed a fundraising spike this week after anger with King boiled over.

Flake made headlines in December when he donated to the campaign of Democrat Doug Jones in his special election race against Republican Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreLawyer for Roy Moore arrested on drug charges Lawyer for Roy Moore arrested on drug charges Doug Jones mocks Moore over reaction to potential Senate bid: 'They're just not that into you' MORE in Alabama, saying, “A Roy Moore victory is no victory for the GOP and the nation.” Jones went on to win the election.

Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by several women who said they were in their teens at the time of the alleged incidents and he was in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations.

Flake has also frequently criticized President Trump’s conduct.

“Some people ... expect me to become a liberal. I'm not, I'm a conservative,” Flake said on CNN. “People shouldn't expect me to vote in lockstep against the president simply out of spite.”