Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Arizona: Jon Kyl, John McCain Endorse Jeff Flake

Sen. John McCain threw his support behind Rep. Jeff Flake, who is running to join McCain in the Senate next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Jeff Flake got about as big of a boost as one can get in Arizona Republican politics. In Phoenix today, GOP Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain endorsed the six-term Congressman, who finds himself in an unexpectedly competitive primary in his bid for Senate.

Kyl, the retiring Senate Minority Whip whose seat Flake is seeking, has particular credibility with Arizona conservatives and his endorsement could be helpful. McCain’s backing could also be useful — he easily won re-election in 2010 after trouncing former Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the GOP primary.

“It’s been a tremendous honor serving Arizona in the United States Senate. It’s important to me that my successor listen to the citizens of Arizona and work hard on their behalf,” Kyl said in a statement. “My choice is Jeff Flake. Jeff is an honest, thoughtful conservative, and he’s already proven that he is an effective reformer. Jeff will fight for what’s right.”

“It’s not easy for one man to make a difference in Washington, but Jeff Flake has,” McCain added. “Jeff stood up to congressional leaders in the House when they were spending too much. They tried to punish and silence him, but Jeff Flake persisted. Eventually, they came around to his way of thinking, and there are no more earmarks in Congress.”

This means  Flake officially has more endorsements in the Arizona delegation than his opponent, wealthy businessman Wil Cardon. Rep. Trent Franks (R) endorsed Cardon in June. The three other Republican House Members, Reps. Paul Gosar, Ben Quayle and David Schweikert are involved in tough primaries and have remained on the fence in the Senate race.

The Kyl and McCain endorsements have been in the works for weeks, if not months, according to  Arizona sources, who say the timing was for strategic value.

McCain confirmed to Roll Call earlier this week that he planned to endorse, while Kyl was more coy. McCain has attended at least three fundraisers for Flake in the past year.

Cardon has put almost $3 million in a television ad campaign that includes many negative shots at Flake. Combined with recent opposition research dumps in the press, it’s been a difficult couple of months for Flake.

But these endorsements cap what has been a good week for the Congressman. On Saturday, the Arizona Republic published a critical story of Cardon’s business practices involving undocumented workers.

Flake’s Federal Election Commission report, which is due Sunday, will be revealing. His first-quarter report was solid, but he has limited resources compared with Cardon’s self-funded spending. The presumptive Democratic nominee, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, raised $1.1 million last quarter and has $1.6 million in cash on hand.

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