“We’re lucky that Kyrsten’s running,’’ said J.B. Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee devoted to electing Democrats to the Senate. A recent poll conducted for the committee found that just 38 percent of Arizonans approve of Mr. Flake’s performance.
In Washington, Ms. Sinema, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, has positioned herself as a centrist, devoting herself to such issues as veterans affairs. In a video announcing her candidacy, she spotlighted her biography: Her family was homeless when she was a child, she said, and spent nearly three years living in an abandoned gas station without running water or electricity.
For a while, the family received food stamps, she said, adding that she made it to Congress with help from ‘‘family, church and sometimes even government.’’
The Flake campaign made clear that it intends to portray Ms. Sinema as too liberal for Arizona. “From her time working on Ralph Nader’s campaign to the state legislature to Congress, Kyrsten Sinema has always been out of touch with Arizona and she’ll do anything to hide her progressive record,” a campaign spokesman, Will Allison, said in a statement.
Mr. Flake’s Republican primary opponent is Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who ran an unsuccessful primary race last year against Arizona’s other Republican senator, John McCain. Ms. Ward developed name recognition during that race that will be helpful this time around.
She is drawing interest from the populist wing of Mr. Trump’s party, including from Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist.
Mr. Flake’s new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” has also stoked anger among Trump supporters both in and outside of Arizona. In blistering terms, the senator rails against Mr. Trump and conservatives who have embraced him. The president, in turn, has gone after Mr. Flake on Twitter and at a rally in Arizona.
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!,’’ Mr. Trump tweeted in August, just a few days before his Arizona trip.
Analysts say Mr. Flake’s biggest challenge will be defining himself to Arizona voters; although he has been in the Senate since 2013 and served in the House before that, many do not know what he stands for.
“This is really going to be a vote about him and his incumbency and where he would define he wants things to go,” said David Winston, a Republican strategist. “So the good news for Flake is that’s a narrative that he can potentially drive. The challenge is what he wants that narrative to be.”
Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics