Kelli Ward, a top Republican candidate in the Arizona Senate primary, claims President Donald Trump told her that former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio shouldn’t run.
When did this happen?
In a video obtained by the Arizona Republic, Ward made the comment as she addressed supporters May 24. She referred to a conversation she had with Trump last year.
Ward said she was with her husband and daughter when she was introduced to Trump at his Mar-A-Lago resort, the report said.
Trump “basically knew everything that was going on in Arizona and in the race,” Ward said. "You know, he had his opinions.”
“He was like, 'You're up 15 points on Martha [McSally], and, you know, Joe shouldn't get in' — he had a few other things to say about that. I'll keep that to myself," Ward said.
One of the dynamics at play is that Ward and Arpaio could split the conservative vote in the primary and hand a victory to McSally.
Last month, Arpaio’s campaign alleged that Ward offered him a position with a pro-Trump superPAC if he dropped out of the race, according to published reports. Ward’s campaign has denied making such an offer.
How did Arpaio react?
“I don’t like to be intimidated by anyone,” Arpaio, 85, told Fox News. “It’s no secret that a lot of people want me out of the race. My response is I’m not leaving.”
Arpaio, a former six-term sheriff, was pardoned by Trump last year after being convicted of contempt of court in a racial profiling case. Arpaio joined the Senate race in January and has raised about $500,000, the least of the three major Republican candidates.
“Whoever convinced Joe to run didn’t do the movement any favors because the movement has a tremendous affection for Joe, but he splits the movement,” Constantine Querard, an Arizona conservative strategist, previously told The Associated Press.
The candidates are vying for the seat held by Sen. Jeff Flake. Flake is retiring after Ward pummeled him in his initial primary. She accused Flake of being too soft on immigration and not supportive enough of Trump’s agenda.
McSally’s filing makes her the sixth candidate in the race across three parties. She could benefit from the tight race between Ward and Arpaio.
“He’s not in it to win it, he’s just in it to keep Kelli Ward from winning,” Chuck Coughlin, an Arizona Republican strategist, told the AP of Arpaio's run.
The winner of the GOP primary on Aug. 28 will most likely face U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic frontrunner.