A Trump critic won’t run again

Sen. Flake faced tough fight from GOP’s Ban­non wing

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

USA TO­DAY WASH­ING­TON Ari­zona Sen. Jeff Flake is leav­ing Con­gress be­cause the kind of con­ser­vatism he cham­pi­ons no longer seems wel­come in Steve Ban­non’s GOP.

Flake, one of the few sen­a­tors will­ing to speak up against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, said Tues­day he would not seek re­elec­tion. He was fac­ing a tough pri­mary chal­lenge from Kelli Ward, a pop­ulist who had al­ready se­cured the back­ing of Ban­non, Trump’s for­mer chief strate­gist.

“It is clear at this mo­ment that a tra­di­tional con­ser­va­tive who be­lieves in lim­ited govern­ment and free mar­kets, who is de­voted to free trade, who is pro-im­mi­gra­tion has a nar­rower and nar­rower path to nom­i­na­tion in the Repub­li­can Party,” Flake said on the Se­nate floor Tues­day, in an­nounc­ing he would not be seek­ing an­other term.

Be­fore be­ing elected to the Se­nate in 2012, Flake had served six terms in the House where he built a rep­u­ta­tion as a crusader against waste­ful govern­ment spend­ing. He built a re­li­able con­ser­va­tive vot­ing record, but his crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent had alien­ated many of Ari­zona’s far-right vot­ers, the ones most likely to show up for mid-term pri­maries.

Trump was not timid in punch­ing back at Flake, say­ing over the sum­mer that he was “weak on bor­ders” and “toxic.”

Flake be­came a key tar­get of Ban­non and his band of anti-es­tab­lish­ment al­lies, who have vowed to put up can­di­dates against any sen­a­tor — in ei­ther party — who was ham­per­ing Trump’s agenda.

Ban­non, who was a se­nior ad­viser to Trump un­til this sum­mer when he re­turned to his post as the head of Bre­it­bart News, even flew to Ari­zona for a cam­paign rally for Ward last week.

“To­day, Steve Ban­non and the en­tire Trump move­ment added an­other scalp to his col­lec­tion,” An­drew Sura­bian, a se­nior ad­viser to the proTrump ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion Great Amer­ica Al­liance, said.

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