Update: 12:15 p.m. Eastern
Winner J. McCain (i) 51.7%
K. Ward 39.2%
A. Meluskey 5.5%
C. Van Steenwyk 3.6%
Update: The AP and Politico have called the race for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
U.S. Sen. John McCain defeats Republican primary challengers in bid for 6th term pic.twitter.com/MBEqJxrCNq
— AP West Region (@APWestRegion) August 31, 2016
Challenger Dr. Kelli Ward released a statement:
Tonight we concluded an amazing chapter in our lives. Along the way, we have met thousands of wonderful people who have sacrificed incredible amounts of time, talent, and treasure to help me stand up, step forward, and speak out in support of the conservative values that founded and sustain this nation.
Sadly, the establishment has won this battle by spending untold millions to call me liberal, dangerous, weak, and, most recently, crazy. As Senator McCain said, “It shouldn’t be beyond us to refrain from substituting character assassination and mean-spiritedness for spirited debate.” After refusing to debate while running a slash and burn campaign devoid of actual ideas, I hope the Senator can rest comfortably with his conscience as he continues to lecture others about civility. The Republican party cannot win as a national party if we keep nominating unprincipled career politicians whose only objective is perpetual re-election.
I am confident that our movement to save America will continue– those of us who believe that “Liberty ought to be the direct end of Government” as Patrick Henry wrote. As Edmund Burke, the philosophical founder of conservatism said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” We have fought the good fight, we have finished this race, we have kept the faith. This battle is done, but the war for America’s soul will certainly continue. This is only the end of the beginning.
It’s primary day in Arizona, featuring one of the most hotly-contested U.S. Senate races in the country, as U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) fights to keep his seat against Republican challenger, former State Senator Dr. Kelli Ward.
Results via AP as of 8:26 p.m. PST, with 11.7% of precincts reporting:
56.0% John McCain
34.1% Kelli Ward
3.9% Clair Van Steenwyk
6.1% Alex Meluskey (pulled out of the race)
30 minutes after polls closed, Kelli Ward’s campaign manager stood up at the campaign’s election night event and introduced Ward as the next U.S. Senator from Arizona. She spoke a minute later and said that everything seems to have broken her way at the last second, foreshadowing victory.
Ward received a boost in the last month, with high-profile endorsements and financial support from Robert Mercer in the form of a $200,000 contribution to a Ward-supporting PAC, according to Politico. The publication also noted that the PAC helped fund a $600,000 ad campaign attacking McCain. Several Arizona state legislators endorsed Ward last December.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel, Rep. Thomas Massie, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Virginia State Senator Richard Black, former Rep. Ron Paul, conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin, talk radio host Laura Ingraham, and three parents who have each lost children at the hands of illegal aliens joined Ward’s endorsees. She also picked up the endorsement of former Reagan official Bay Buchanan on Monday, who announced of her endorsement in the Daily Caller.
Pro-McCain Arizona Grassroots Action PAC has been blasting Ward with negative ads in the days leading up to primary. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump endorsed McCain earlier this month as he also backed Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his contested bid for re-election. McCain also received endorsements from Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Rep. Chris Smith, Sen. Jeff Flake, former Rep. John Shadegg, former Rep. Jim Kolbe, and a number of state elected officials.
Contender Alex Meluskey pulled out of the race at the beginning of the month as early voting began. Despite leaving the race, Meluskey’s name remained on the ballot. In a May Public Policy Polling survey ,Meluskey received just 4 percent support among respondents. Van Steenwyk had even less support, with just 2 percent. That poll showed McCain and Ward tied when matched up head-to-head.
A late August Breitbart News/Gravis poll showed McCain and Ward neck and neck as 37 percent of those surveyed backed McCain and 33 percent went for Ward, with a 3.4 percent margin of error. Still, 23 percent of respondents remained undecided at the time of the August 27 poll.
McCain has faced strong opposition from within the Arizona Republican Party. Maricopa County Republicans overwhelmingly censured the five term senator in January 2014, citing what they called McCain’s “long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats, such as Amnesty, funding for ObamaCare, the debt ceiling, assaults on the Constitution and 2nd amendment, and has continued to support liberal nominees.”
By December 2014, reports surfaced of McCain allies purging those involved in censuring the longtime politician. Politico reported that Timothy Schwartz, author of the McCain censure, was pushed out of his district chairman position.
Many Arizonans have taken issue with McCain’s 2010 campaign promise to “complete the danged fence” as he faced his last tough primary challenger, J.D. Hayworth.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana