In Arizona, Kelli Ward Sticks Her Foot In Her Mouth On Eve Of Primary

Just hours before Senator McCain died, one of the candidates running for Jeff Flake's Senate seat claimed that the McCain family released a statement about the late Senator's health to hurt her campaign.

Tomorrow, Arizona voters head to the poll in what will essentially be the last set of primaries prior to the midterm elections in other than the mid-September contests that will take place in New York. Among the contests that will be on the ballot in the Grand Canyon State is the race for the nomination of the Republican Party for the nomination to fill the seat of Senator Jeff Flake, who is retiring at the end of his current term in December. The main candidates for that nomination are Congresswoman Martha McSally, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and State Senator Kelli Ward, who previously ran for the nomination against Senator McCain in 2016 in what was a particularly nasty campaign in which Ward and her supporters relentlessly attacked McCain as a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) due largely to his position on issues like immigration reform.

Obviously, the death of Senator McCain will hang over the election, which is unfortunate for Ms. Ward given the fact that just hours before McCain’s death she proceeded to stick her foot firmly in her mouth:

Kelli Ward, a U.S. Senate hopeful and onetime rival of Sen. John McCain, is facing a torrent of criticism after she appeared to suggest that his announcement Friday to halt medical treatment for his brain cancer was timed to hurt her campaign. McCain, 81, died a day after his announcement.

One of Ward’s staffers on Saturday wrote a Facebook post wondering whether the timing of the statement from McCain’s family, made on the same day that Ward’s statewide bus tour kicked off, was simply a coincidence or a tactic “to take media attention off her campaign.”

Ward did not dispute the notion and said in reply: “I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me.”

McCain died just hours after Ward’s Facebook comments.

Ward, who is seeking the GOP nomination to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), has made controversial comments about McCain in the past. A far-right candidate, she shares President Trump’s hard-line policies on immigration and border security and has promised, as the president did, to “drain the swamp.”

In a follow-up comment, Ward said it’s the media that is creating a negative narrative about her, not the McCains.

“The media loves a narrative. I’ve said again and again to pray for Senator McCain & his family. These decisions are terribleMcC to have to make. I feel compassion for him and his family as they go through this. … The media, the left, and the Establishment have the agenda. They’ve been attacking me over fake stories for a year on this issue. I ran against McCain. I don’t agree with his voting record and rhetoric. I pray for him as a man who is suffering,” Ward wrote, according to the Arizona Republic.

The comment has been removed from Facebook, but you can still see it in this screenshot:

As things stood even before making this particularly stupid comment, Ward’s chances of winning the nomination were slipping through her fingers, as were those of Joe Arpaio, as Arizona Republicans appear to be rallying behind the candidacy of Congresswoman Martha McSally, who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District. The two most recent polls in the state, both of which were taken well before Ward’s remarks over the weekend, showed McSally with a massive lead over both Ward and Arpaio, both of whom appear to be splitting the pro-Trump/Tea Party vote between them. Indeed, according to both of those polls, McSally is within striking distance of breaking 50% of the vote in the three-way race, and Ward’s latest comments could be just what’s needed to push the Congresswoman over the top in that respect. Since Arizona does not have runoff elections, McSally isn’t required to get above 50% to win the nomination, all that is required is that she gets the most votes of any of the candidates, which seems to be the most likely outcome. However, pulling off a decisive win rather than a narrow one would be advantageous for McSally ahead of a General Election fight that could prove to be decisive in deciding which party controls the Senate starting in January.

On the Democratic side, it is expected that Krysten Sinema, who represents the states 9th Congressional District, will win her party’s nomination easily. Currently, all the major political analysts rate the race as a “Toss Up,” and polling shows Sinema leading all three Republican contenders, although it is worth noting that the margins in the polls matching Sinema and McSally are far closer than those matching Sinema and either Ward or Arpaio. Since McSally will likely be the Republican nominee, this race will most assuredly receive a lot of national attention both because of its national implications and because of the fact that it will pit two strong female candidates against each other.

In any case, Ward’s comments, which were both utterly disrespectful and ill-timed given tomorrow’s election, are likely to further doom her campaign. She deserves it.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    Well, she has to blame someone for the fact that no one has endorsed her, including Donald Trump.

  2. Slugger says:

    I hope that everyone will be kind to Ms. Ward and help her get the help she needs. She has ideas of grandiosity (wants to be a US Senator) and irrational focus on self (thinks someone wants to die of brain tumor to discomfort her). Combined with persecution ideas (the media is out to get me) there is a strong presumption of paranoia. I hope that you will be healed; you have my thoughts and prayers, Kelli.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Hope this Cruella De Ville continues to wash her campaign down the drain. What a narcissist!

  4. Franklin says:

    I’m sure McCain went out of his way to die at just the right time to mildly disrupt some random nobody.

  5. charon says:

    I think most primary votes, especially the GOP primary are from the permanent vote by mail list. The deadline for mailing ballots was Aug. 22.

  6. CSK says:

    Under apparent extreme pressure from WH aides, Trump late this afternoon grudgingly released a statement lauding McCain for his heroism and service.

    I recall when Trump was forced to retract his initial Charlottesville statement about very fine neo-Nazis. And then the next day, he retracted that statement. What do you want to bet he says something nasty about McCain tomorrow?

  7. Gustopher says:

    How dare he die at her! So rude.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Slugger: Ummmm…. No. She can have my cankers and hemorrhoids.

  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    @charon: I’m glad you brought up the mail-in aspect. I think the whole pearl-clutching, yammering and pontificating that goes on when a candidate fouls up late in the race after most mail-in ballots are in is a waste of cyberspace.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    You ever notice how most Trumpists are as repulsive as he is? Who am I kidding, of course you do…

  11. charon says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    Even so, there has been a lot of last minute advertising on the TV, for or against both Ward and McSally.

    My guess, though, not many people who are not political junkies have even heard of what Ward said. (The ads are not mentioning it).

  12. Kylopod says:

    Why call this “foot in mouth” (or in this case “foot in post”)? This wasn’t some accidental, poorly worded misstatement. Like Trump himself, she’s a pig. She was revealing her true colors.

    The Trumpists live for these offenses. The more something you said offends the respectable classes, the more they love you. They have absolutely zero sense of common decency or compassion, and to them anyone who cares about such concepts is a cuck and/or snowflake.

    While she probably just killed off whatever chances she may have had of making a comeback in the primary, I’m not so sure: I could envision a scenario where it leads to a surge in her support. If not for the split in the crazy vote between her and Arpaio, she’d probably be leading already.

  13. al Ameda says:

    @One American:

    Seems so much anger over anything he does and anyone who doesn’t have a rage filled hate against him isn’t very healthy for, well anyone. But have at it

    All I see is a very rational response to a malevolent, petty vindictive narcissist president. Really, there is nothing out of the ordinary except for the behavior of this president.

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Seems so much anger over anything he does and anyone who doesn’t have a rage filled hate against him isn’t very healthy for, well anyone.

    You’re confused, sweetie…he has done plenty to get angry about, that you can’t see that illustrates the kind of blinders you are wearing…no one needs to have any rage filled hate against him…simply acknowledging what a disaster he is would be enough…and if people like you and Kelli Ward are examples of Trump supporters, well, you’ve already made my point for me and I thank you…

  15. JohnMcC says:

    @Franklin: You’re correct and there is some sort of aphorism about no one choosing their manner of dying but if John knows the effect of his moment of death and the days of discomfort his laying down when he did does to Pres Trump, I bet he’s pretty pleased with himself.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    OT, but if this is true I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about J. Peterson and his possible effect on the alt-right over the long term.

    Peterson has certainly forgotten his Greek philsphers: “moderation in all things.” How anyone can claim to be allergic to spinach is beyond me….

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnMcC: I forget which two great figures of European diplomacy were involved–I think Talleyrand and Metternich–but the story goes that when the news of the death of one of them was brought to the other, his response was: “I wonder what he meant by that?”

  18. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    How anyone can claim to be allergic to spinach is beyond me….

    I don’t know if it qualifies as an allergy, but my wife has a very…poor relationship with spinach. She likes it a whole lot more than it likes her.

  19. CSK says:

    Well, Kelli got clobbered by McSally, 52-28. Arpaio got a staggering 19.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: As a person with food allergies for 60+ years, I can tell you that how it works (oversimplified as this may be) is that a person can have an allergy to any food for which the protein creates a histaminic reaction. As to how much and what kind of protein spinach has in it that would cause a reaction, I don’t know, but it is theoretically possible.