To win a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, John McCain faces the gauntlet of battling a feisty conservative challenger just to get to a November showdown with the Democrats’ top recruit for the race.
McCain, who will turn 80 the day before the Aug. 30 primary, was first elected in 1986. But while he is among the best-known senators and a one-time Republican presidential nominee, the senator may no longer be the toast of his own constituents.
“Arizona deserves to have a Republican senator who represents their values. We aren’t getting that right now,” said Dr. Kelli Ward, an osteopathic physician and a former Arizona state senator, who says the disgust voters are expressing for Washington on the presidential campaign trail is also palpable in her state.
“They’re looking to change the status quo in Washington, D.C.,” Ward told WND and Radio America. “Truly the only way we can do that is by changing the people we send there. We can’t keep sending the same people back and expect a different result.”
The 47-year-old Ward won a special election to the state senate in 2012. She won re-election unopposed in 2014, but resigned the seat in December to focus on the U.S. Senate race.
She said the list of reasons McCain needs to be retired is long and clear.
“Just in the last few years, he voted for tax hikes, he voted for bailouts, he voted for massive new spending. He voted for amnesty. He voted for liberal judges. That’s on everyone’s mind right now,” Ward said. “He mocked the conservatives who wanted to stop Obamacare, calling Sen. Cruz, Sen. Paul and Sen. Lee ‘wacko birds.’ He’s voted 15 times to increase the debt ceiling.”
She wasn’t done.
“He’s supported the Democrats’ efforts to infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” she said. “He’s been willing to bend the Constitution regarding our Fourth Amendment privacy rights. The list goes on and on and on.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Dr. Kelli Ward:
How would Ward be different?
“I’m a small-government Republican,” she said. “I want smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, a strong defense and a strong military. I want personal responsibility across the board, and I want us to get back to following our Constitution.”
Ward said her brief time in the state senate is proof that she’s not just talk on these issues.
“Last year, I was able to get 19 bills signed into law, common-sense bills that did shrink the size of government, that lowered our taxes, that took the heavy hand of government off the heads of small businesses and let them thrive.
“I worked on welfare reform, health-care reform, education reform, all of those things I want to take to Washington. I also stood up to my party at times and to the executive branch at other times.”
She offered a recent example of how she rebuffed GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.
“He sent me some nominees for the state board of education when I was the education chair. They were unacceptable to me and to the people I represented because they were pro-Common Core,” said Ward, vowing to bring that same level of scrutiny to federal nominations if elected to the U.S. Senate.
Whether Ward has a decent shot at beating McCain depends upon which poll you view. Late last summer, a Gravis Marketing survey showed Ward leading McCain 45-36 percent and both of them ahead of likely Democrat nominee Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. In that poll, McCain led Kirkpatrick 48-35 percent, while Ward held a 43-38 percent edge.
However, a new Rocky Mountain Poll has McCain with a commanding 47-11 lead over Ward. It also shows him in a statistical dead heat with Kirkpatrick with just a 38-37 margin. The Rocky Mountain Poll did not ask about a potential Ward-Kirkpatrick match-up.
Many more polls will emerge in the coming months to flesh out the state of the race. For her part, Ward believes she presents unique problems for McCain.
“Senator McCain has never faced a well-educated, well-spoken, down-to-earth, Constitution-loving woman,” she said. “It is going to be very difficult for him, especially in this time of upset with career politicians and the political elite ruling over us, rather than allowing us to have government of, by, and for the people.”
But this is not just about unseating McCain. Ward is also confident she could keep the seat in GOP hands if she advances to face Kirkpatrick in November.
“She votes with Barack Obama nearly 100 percent of the time,” Ward said. “Arizona is still a conservative state, so I don’t think Ann Kirkpatrick will fare very well against me, a constitutional female.”