After serving in the Senate since 2013, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake surprised many when he announced October 24 that he didn’t intend to seek reelection in 2018. He will be done serving in the Senate when his term concludes in January 2019.
Flake let colleagues and the American public know that the reason he’s quitting is partly because of the political climate and also because of the way President Donald Trump has handled the country since he’s assumed office.
“There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles, now is such a time,” he said during his speech. “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”
Flake later held a press conference further explaining the reason for his resignation. Looking on and seated nearby was a woman with a smile on his face: his wife, Cheryl. The couple have been married for over 30 years and have five children together. They remain active in their faith, but have had to deal with some issues caused by their children through the years.
Here’s what you need to know about Cheryl and Jeff’s relationship:
1. The Flakes Got Married in 1985 & Have 5 Children Together
Jeff and Cheryl met during the 1980s when they attended school together at Brigham Young University. During that time, Cheryl would cut Jeff’s hair, he told the East Valley Tribune in 2007. Jeff also said that he still “mooches free hair cuts” from his wife to this day.
In 1985, soon after the two graduated from BYU, they got married. The couple have one daughter and four boys together: Alexis, Ryan, Austin, Tanner and Dallin. They also have one grandchild so far.
In 2013, Jeff had to apologize for Tanner’s homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments posted online. According to the New York Daily News, Tanner posted the remarks on social media in February and March and were discovered by BuzzFeed.
“Say something hilarious, and I guarantee that … will say it louder and get all the credit. Jew,” a now-deleted Twitter post in February 2015 said.
In one of the messages, he threatened the “f****t” who stole his motorcycle from a parking lot, and other Facebook posts showed that he openly used the N word on numerous occasions.
To the f****t who stole my dirt bike from the church parking lot, I will find you, and I will beat the crap out of you,
“This language is unacceptable, anywhere,” Flake said in a statement. “Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well.”
2. The Flakes Are Mormons
Jeff was raised on a large cattle ranch in Arizona and was part of a large Mormon family. He told The Atlantic in September that his upbringing influenced his politics and style.
“I grew up alongside migrant labor,” Flake said to the news outlet. “I could never look at them and see a criminal class.”
His grandfather, James Madison Flake, raised his 24 children in the home, and his great grandfather, William Jordan Flake, was a prominent member of the Mormon religion, Esquire reported.
Jeff’s religious background is now practiced by Cheryl and the rest of his family members. He said in 2001 that he once went on a Mormon mission to Zimbabwe and South Africa, which helped grow his beliefs.
3. Jeff & Cheryl Filed a Lawsuit Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio for an Alleged Conspiracy in Relation to the Deaths of 21 Dogs
In February 2015, the Flakes filed a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Joe Arpaio for $8 million in damages. The couple accused Arpaio and the sheriff’s department of “constructing a conspiracy” to wrongfully indict them in the deaths of 21 dogs. Their two sons, Austin and Logan, had been charged in the deaths of the dogs, who died from heat exhaustion while they were watching them in Gilbert in July 2014. They faced animal-cruelty charges along with the owners of the home in Gilbert, who were gone on vacation for a week.
The charges were eventually dropped, with Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery saying “the theory of the case as initially presented to the grand jury did not take into account the possibility that there were issues with an air-conditioning unit.”
Arpaio said at the time that evidence indicated there was intentional acts to kill the dogs. But it was determined that vital information was left out to the grand jury.
The Flakes’ lawyer said in a letter that the sheriff’s office designed a plan to “harm their reputations by presenting false and misleading information.” They accused the sheriff of trying to get back at him for issues like immigration.
“Defendant Arpaio has made statements that he loves this case, and others like it, because the more he publicizes them, the more money that he receives in campaign contributions,” the lawsuit said. “Defendant Arpaio knew that the Flake name would garner publicity, and publicized the criminal case against the Flakes heavily.”
Arpaio underwent a deposition in regard to the lawsuit in July 2016.
Arpaio was convicted for contempt of court in December 2014 because of his department’s failure to comply with the court’s order to stop racially profiling. He was scheduled to be sentenced in October, but was pardoned by Trump in August.
4. Jeff & Cheryl Own a Sprawling Home in Mesa
Prior to the 2016 Republican National Convention, Jeff answered a question about whether he and his wife would attend the event in Cleveland.
“No, I’ve got to mow my lawn,” he told a reporter.
The Flakes’ home is located in Mesa, and according to the Phoenix New Times, Jeff and Cheryl paid $440,000 for the 4,625-square-foot home in November 1999. Its assessed value in 2017 is $587,000, down from its $664,200 worth the year prior. The home’s listing on Zillow indicates that it has 4.75 bathrooms and a three-car garage.
5. Jeff Once Left His Wife at Home &Amp; Went on a Journey to a Deserted Island With His Sons
In 2013, Jeff took some time away from his wife during a congressional recess, bringing two of his sons on a four-day trip during Memorial Day. There, he was able to “fulfill his lifelong dream of spending a survivalist week alone,” the Washington Post reported.
Jeff told the newspaper that when he launched his Senate bid in 2011, he promised Tanner and Dallin that he would go on a survivalist trip. So they traveled to Kwajalein Island, part of the Marshall Islands and went on a fishing boat to an unoccupied island named Biggarenn.
“We came back a little thinner, maybe a little wiser,” he told The Post. “We had an awesome time, it was great.”
Jeff told The Post that he brought along a satellite phone at Cheryl’s request partly because of “the potential dangers of sharks,” he said.