By Jackson Richman
On Tuesday, former Maricopa Country sheriff Joe Arpaio announced his run this year for the Senate from Arizona.
Arpaio, pardoned by President Donald Trump for a conviction of criminal contempt that carried a possible jail sentence, told the Washington Examiner, “I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump.”
“I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “But I would not being doing this if I thought that I could not win. I’m not here to get my name in the paper, I get that everyday, anyway.”
Arpaio’s candidacy could split the vote from the Steve Bannon constituency, which supports Arpaio and Arizona state senator Kelli Ward, who is also running for Senator Jeff Flake’s seat and has been supported by the president. This may benefit Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who has privately told House colleagues she is running.
“Arpaio getting involved is probably great news for McSally, assuming she does get involved, as she still hasn’t formally announced,” a GOP campaign operative told The National Discourse. “Considering Arpaio is a known bomb thrower, and so is Kelli Ward, this means McSally has a much more clear lane to cleaning up the moderate and establishment vote in the primary.”
The operative added, “Still a long way to go and the field is still potentially fluid, but for now, this is a good omen for McSally, should she decide to enter the race.”
The source noted Arpaio’s age, which is 85 years old. “[That is a] massive detriment to his ability to govern/campaign,” he said.
Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak agreed with the operative and told the Discourse that both Arpaio and Ward running would likely help McSally. “Two grassroots candidates running weakens both. Joe Arpaio will likely push Kelli Ward out,” he said. “If both stayed in it would guarantee neither wins.”
Mackowiak added, “The filing deadline is May 30 and the primary is August 28, so there is a lot of time. I think Martha McSally is a strong candidate and will be the likely primary and general election winner, but that primary will be a real test.”
Regarding the voter base of both Arpaio and Ward, “It’s not clear to me what the ‘Bannon vote’ really amounts to at this point,” Mackowiak said.
Whereas in the Alabama special election there were two non-Bannon candidates — Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Senator Luther Strange (R-AL), who, in turn, enabled Bannon’s candidate, former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore, to win the GOP primary, only to lose the general election to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) — this year’s Arizona election presents the opposite scenario.
A scenario that only further splits the Bannon sphere of influence, which is only starting to diminish.