United States Senator Jeff Flake announces retirement, citing 'profoundly misguided' party politics

Friday, October 27, 2017

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced on Tuesday he will not seek reelection when his term in the Senate is up next year, citing issues within the United States Republican Party and with President Donald Trump, whose behavior he called "reckless, outrageous, and undignified." The Trump administration said Flake had poor support among his constituency.

In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Flake said, "The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and," he said, "I believe, profoundly misguided." He later added on CNN's The Lead, "It's difficult to move forward in a Republican primary if you have been critical of any of the behavior that's gone on[...] We Republicans certainly can't countenance that kind of behavior. We ought to stand up and say 'This is not right. This is not us. This is not conservative.' "

Senator Jeff Flake in 2016.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

"Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, [retirement]'s probably a good move," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the media. Recent polls showed Flake has limited popularity with Republicans in Arizona.

Last year President Trump told other Arizona politicians he planned to personally spend US$10 million to see that Flake did not win the Republican primary, the intra-party election that names the party's official candidate. About two months ago Trump tweeted in support of Flake's rival for the primary nod, Kelli Ward, "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!"

Republican Senators John McCain and Bob Corker, who have also been critical of President Trump, stood and clapped at the end of Flake's floor speech. Corker later called Flake a "real conservative." Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine described herself as deeply disappointed by Flake's decision. Republican Senator John Cornyn and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine referred to it as "sad" and "depressing."

Kaine commented, "When someone as good and decent a person as Jeff Flake does not think he can continue in the body, it's a very tragic day for the institution."

Flake has recently published a book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, in which he criticizes what he sees as Trump's negative effect on the tone of United States politics. Politically, Flake has differed from President Trump on trade and immigration, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Flake in favor of both agreements and Trump against. Flake also co-authored a 2013 law that would have given undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship if it had passed. Trump is in the early stages of building a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border in an attempt to prevent people from entering the U.S. illegally and has issued three executive orders limiting immigration from specific countries, though these were later blocked.

United States senators serve six-year terms. One third of the Senate is elected or reelected every two years.