Robert Mercer, the pro-Trump mega donor and part owner of Breitbart, has given $300,000 to a Super PAC to back former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward in a U.S. Senate bid next year. She wants to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in the 2018 primary.
(In July, Ward told an Indiana radio station that Sen. John McCain should resign, given his cancer diagnosis, and hoped Arizona’s governor would appoint her to fill his seat.)
Few Republicans have placed themselves in opposition to President Donald Trump. Sen. Flake has bucked the trend, joining the thin ranks of Republicans willing to challenge Trump.
Flake recently wrote in Politico about Trump’s “seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians,” while his newly published book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” takes aim at more than Trump’s affection for Putin, Erdogan and Duterte.
“Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign … we lurched like a tranquilized elephant from a broad consensus on economic philosophy and free trade that had held for generations to an incoherent and often untrue mash of back-of-the-envelope populist slogans,” writes Flake in his book.
He is equally disgusted by the “far-right press that too often deals in unreality … we [Republicans] must not condone it. We must not use it to frighten and exploit the base. We must condemn it, in no uncertain terms.”
Flake’s unabashed criticism of the leader of his party and President of the United States has incensed the Trumpian alt-right wing of the GOP, prompting the hefty investment in a primary challenger.
At one point, Politico reports, Trump said he would be willing to spend $10 million of his own money to eject Flake from the U.S. Senate.
Of the Mercer investment in KelliPAC, chairman Doug McKee noted how important “early investments in a campaign like this are. … Interest from additional donors is pouring in.”
Part of the funds will surely be used for marketing and ad initiatives. President Trump may appear in TV and digital spots touting his support for Flake’s opponent.
During the 2016 campaign, when Flake refused to endorse the GOP nominee, then candidate Trump tweeted: “The Great State of Arizona, where I just had a massive rally (amazing people), has a very weak and ineffective Senator, Jeff Flake. Sad!”
Flake isn’t the only Republican Trump retaliated against. Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins, Dean Heller and Lisa Murkowski were singled out for their refusal to support his policies. Sen. Heller, who endured Trump's public jibes, is also up for reelection in 2018.