McCain poised to get first GOP challenger

McCain poised to get first GOP challenger

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry MORE (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday could get his first GOP challenger to his 2016 reelection bid.

Republican Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, who has spent months weighing a potential bid against McCain, emailed her supporters on Friday and said she would announce her plans at a “major event” on Tuesday.

"I've been truly honored and humbled by all the encouragement and support I've gotten from tens of thousands of Arizonians like you who want fresh, courageous new leadership," Ward, 46, wrote in the message.


She called McCain, the hawkish chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a “liberal.” Ward also criticized his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and mass surveillance programs.

"Weak-kneed establishment Republicans have gone along with the Obama agenda, and the conservatives in Congress have begged us to send them reinforcements," according to Ward.

McCain is unpopular with some conservatives in Arizona and could face more primary challengers in the months ahead.

Outside conservative groups are pushing Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.) to challenge the 78-year-old McCain.

In May, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released data that showed McCain garnering more support than Ward among Arizona voters who identify as “very conservative.”

Ward took only 31 percent support against McCain, who had 44 percent among such voters.

McCain also has a significant cash advantage. He raised $2.1 million in the first quarter, bringing his total cash on hand to over $3.6 million. His fundraising numbers for the second quarter could be released as soon this week.

Immigration could be a key issue in the border state.

On Friday, McCain took a swipe at 2016 presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE, saying that the "circus" surrounding the debate on illegal immigration is damaging the GOP. 

In a statement earlier this year, McCain touted his work to try to pass immigration reform and bolster border security. 

"We need to address the issue," the senator said. "We need to do it in a constructive fashion, or we do not win the 2016 election." 

This story was updated at 12:15 p.m.