Kelli Ward might be a frontrunner for replacing Senator John McCain if he chooses to retire. Although Gov. Doug Ducey has not made any indication yet of who he might choose, her strong showing against McCain in the 2016 primary would likely make her a leading contender. McCain was just diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer. Tragically, the prognosis for this type of cancer is not good. It’s not known at this time if he plans to retire during his treatment or if he will continue serving in the Senate.
If he retires, his Senate vacancy in Arizona will be filled by a governor appointment rather than a special election. The governor must appoint someone from the same party, and that person will serve until the next statewide general election, which is November 6, 2018. The person who is elected to the Senate in 2018 will then hold the position until McCain’s term ends. McCain was just re-elected to his new six-year term in November 2016.
Many believe that Ward would be a strong contender for an appointment if McCain retires. She ran against McCain in the 2016 primary and got 39.2 percent of the vote. This is a strong showing against an incumbent who was running for his sixth term. This might make her a safe choice for Gov. Ducey, since he is up for re-election himself in 2018. She’s already signed up to run for election in 2018, but this time she will be running in the primary against Sen. Jeff Flake. So she’s definitely still interested in a Senate position.
In June, Ward met with White House officials about her 2018 campaign and she said that they encouraged her to run. She wouldn’t share any more details than that, including whether or not President Donald Trump had attended the meeting. Flake has come under some controversy since he shared that he didn’t vote for Trump in the election.
Others have suggested that Robert Graham might get an appointment. He’s an entrepreneur and business owner who was formerly chair of the Arizona Republican Party in 2013 and 2015. Another possibility would be Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, whom Politico recently listed as a contender for unseating Flake.
As for Ward, she could be a favorite because many of her views do seem to echo Trump’s. She held a Facebook Live Q&A on Monday and shared that she might like to see the U.S. leave the U.N., she believes taxation is theft, and she’s strongly against socialism. She hasn’t been afraid to show her support of Trump, often using #MAGA in her tweets.
If you want to see Ward’s Facebook Live Q&A, you can rewatch it in full below:
There are some issues that might not play in her favor, however. She’s been criticized for not being pro-life enough. In 2012, the former physician said she didn’t want the government involved in abortion, along with many other aspects of doctor-patient relationships. She’s also received criticism for lending credence to the idea of chemtrails, a theory that suggests the government is spraying chemicals on the public without their knowledge. In 2014, she held a town hall meeting specifically to discuss chemtrails. She said later that she didn’t believe the theory herself, but wanted to hold the town hall because many people in her district were worried about it.
Her desire to crackdown on the NSA, however, might lend her some additional support from the general public. She introduced a bill in Arizona in 2014 to prohibit law enforcement from helping a federal agency collect information without a warrant.
Ward was elected to serve in the Arizona State Senate for the fifth legislative district in 2012. She continued practicing emergency medicine while serving in office, and she was re-elected in 2014. On December 2, 2015, she resigned so she could focus on her primary race against McCain.
She’s married to Michael Ward, who served in the Arizona National Guard, and they have three children.
At this point, it’s not known who will be chosen if McCain decides to retire. But Ward has a lot of points in her favor when it comes to a possible appointment.