Senator Flake to Retire in 2018 Citing ‘Nastiness’ of Washington

Jeff Flake speaks in support of Mitt Romney at a 2012 rally in Tempe, Arizona. (Unmodified Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore.

In a dramatic speech on the Senate floor, Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced that he would not be running for re-election in 2018.

The announcement came months after Flake published his book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” which heavily criticized President Donald Trump and the Republican Party for allowing him to rise to power.

In his speech Tuesday afternoon, Flake spoke against the “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” he was observing at the top levels of the government. He also expressed disapproval of Republicans as a whole, saying that they were choosing the best thing to do politically over the right thing to do.

“I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles,” said Flake.

Sen. Flake’s retirement points to larger pockets of dissatisfaction with Trump within the Republican Party. The senator’s departure also changes the political calculus of the upcoming midterm elections in 2018.

The Republican Party holds a slim majority in the Senate, with 52 seats. Historically speaking, the President’s political party tends to lose seats in the first midterm elections of his term. Flake’s seat is thought to be vulnerable to a Democratic flip in 2018.

Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward was already planning to mount a challenge to Flake in the Republican primary. Ward’s views align with Trump’s as she advocates “America first” policy, and has supported many of the actions taken by the Trump administration thus far.

Flake’s most likely Democratic competitor would have been Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who was leading in most polls pitting her against the incumbent senator.

As Jeff Flake leaves the Senate, he leaves behind both a terse relationship with the president and a complex election, in which the future of the Republican Party hangs in the balance.

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