Arizona lawmaker announces primary bid against McCain

Arizona lawmaker announces primary bid against McCain
© Francis Rivera

Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward on Tuesday formally announced that she will challenge Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain says Ben Carson should be developing brain cancer treatment, not working at HUD Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats Pelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award MORE in the 2016 Republican primary.

In a brief video posted on her campaign web site, Ward, 46, said it’s time to replace McCain with “a fresh, new” voice in Washington.

“In the Navy, John McCain served our country honorably. He’s an American hero who’s earned our respect,” said Ward, who reeferred to McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

“But as the senior senator form Arizona John McCain has too often disappointed conservatives,” the two-time state legislator added. 

In the clip, Ward, a former emergency room physician, previewed the issues she will use in her bid to topple the five-term incumbent, including ObamaCare, federal spending and immigration. 

She also mentioned how 2016 Democratic presidential contender Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE has called McCain “her favorite Republican.”

“Well, I can assure you, she won’t say that about me,” Ward joked.

Speaking to supporters at her campaign’s kickoff, Ward said “our country has changed so much in recent years” and had done so even more in the last few weeks “thanks to the Supreme Court” — a reference to the court’s rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage.

“It’s not the America we grew up in, is it? No, no,” she told the crowd.

Ward touted herself as a “true conservative” unlike McCain, who she said has been known to tack to the right during his reelection bids.

“He’s going to move so far to the right, he’s going to bump into my left shoulder,” Ward predicted, adding she would “nudge” him back to where he belongs.

Ward said 30 years in Washington had “changed” McCain and that he had “entrenched himself in the Beltway.”

“His brain follows federal dictates, rather than state needs,” she said.

McCain “would love to stay” in the Senate “forever,” according to Ward, but Arizonans deserve someone who is “energetic and fully-charged” to represent them.

“Respectfully, it’s time for a change. It’s time to retire McCain!” Ward told the audience to cheers.

She predicted that the race would be “no cakewalk” and likened the fight with McCain to David versus Goliath.

“You have to remember David did win in that fight,” Ward said to applause.

Ward had been toying with a primary challenge since April. 

Last week, Ward issued an invitation to a "big announcement" Tuesday night in Arizona. On Monday, a page on her campaign website accidentally briefly declared she was a candidate before it was taken down.

McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, faced a primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.). 

With the help of millions leftover from his White House bid, he pummeled Hayworth and sailed through the general election.

Ahead of Ward’s announcement, McCain’s campaign spokesman released a harsh statement that hints the primary could turn into a bare-knuckle brawl.

“Senator Ward’s record of bizarre statements and questionable judgment will be a key concern for Arizona voters over the next year,” spokesman Brian Rogers said, mentioning her controversial stances on so-called “chemtrails” from airplanes and her support of divisive figures like Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. 

McCain raised $2.1 million in the first quarter of 2014, bringing his total cash on hand to over $3.6 million.

He may need every penny, as Ward might not be his only competition for the GOP nomination. 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 get into the race.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickArizona Dems ask DHS to appoint 'crisis coordinator' at border Democrats introduce bill to let 'Dreamers' work for Congress Push for ‘Medicare for all’ worries centrist Dems MORE (D-Ariz.) announced her candidacy in May.

- Updated at 9:41 p.m.