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AZ Senate poll: Is liberal Republican Martha McSally giving Joe Arpaio the lead?

Conservative Review

On the same day controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Arizona, a poll conducted by ABC15/OHPI shows Arpaio jumping past former state senator Kelli Ward to tie for the lead with prospective candidate Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

The Tuesday poll of 504 likely Republican primary voters shows Arpaio with 29 percent support, statistically tied with McSally, at 31 percent. Ward drops to third place with 25 percent support for the seat held by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Flake, deeply unpopular with Republican primary voters in Arizona for his various betrayals of conservatives in the Senate and his vocal opposition to President Trump, announced his retirement in October.

Arpaio's closest poll competitor, Rep. Martha McSally, is expected to formally declare her candidacy for U.S. Senate Friday. McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, was the first woman to fly combat missions and the first to command a fighter squadron. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, in a swing district.

Conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund released a preemptive joint statement last October condemning McSally as a liberal Republican and urging her to stay out of the race.

“Representative McSally has a very liberal voting record," SCF president Ken Cuccinelli said. Conservative writer Erick Erickson noted, "Rep. McSally was one of the few Republicans who Barack Obama could routinely depend upon over the past few years."

It is likely conservative opposition to McSally's dismal record in the House that has created this opening for Arpaio, despite the controversy surrounding his tactics as sheriff of Maricopa County.

Arpaio, 85, was pardoned by President Donald Trump last August after being convicted of criminal contempt for violating a 2011 court order to cease his policy of detaining individuals solely on the suspicion that they were illegal immigrants. In a tweet announcing his candidacy for the Senate, he pledged "unwavering" support for President Donald Trump.

Arpaio endorsed Trump for president in January 2016 and went on to campaign for him. Trump won the Arizona Republican presidential primary with 47 percent of the vote and carried the state by two points over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.

In a hypothetical scenario where Arpaio is endorsed for Senate by President Trump, McSally is endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Ward is endorsed by Steve Bannon, the race changes. Arpaio, with Trump's endorsement, would lead with 35 percent, McSally would carry 31 percent, and Ward would fall to 13 percent support.

Arpaio's strength as a general election candidate is highly suspect. In his last election, Arpaio lost his sheriff's job to Democrat Paul Penzone by 11 points after raising more than $12 million for re-election, ending a 24-year run as "America's Toughest Sheriff."

The Republican primary election will be held on August 28, 2018.

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