The race for Jeff Flake's Senate seat just got interesting yet again

The question of who will be the next senator from Arizona, replacing Jeff Flake, is looking less clear than ever this week. For quite a while now it had been looking like Dr. Kelli Ward might have a fairly clear shot at it. She’s the same Tea Party candidate who had been trying to replace John McCain and has quite a following in conservative circles. But now two new flies have dropped into the ointment. In only a week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Congresswoman Martha McSally have entered the fray. And the initial polling of this new alignment shows that the primary might be very tight, with Arpaio possibly tanking Ward’s chances. (AOL)

Ward’s pathway to victory was predicated on her ability to consolidate conservatives. Having to now compete for those voters with Arpaio, it’s McSally who looks to benefit from the breach on the right. An OH Predictive Insights poll conducted this week of 504 registered voters found McSally with 31 percent support to Arpaio’s 29 percent. Ward, despite having the longest tenure in the race, was in third with 25 percent. A November poll by the same firm pegged Ward at 42 percent support to McSally’s 34 percent in a two-person contest.

“Sheriff Joe’s entrance into the race probably assures Martha McSally the nomination,” says Bruce Ash, a Republican National Committeeman from Arizona. “It probably splits the vote on Kelli Ward. The primary is probably a little more certain for Martha with Sheriff Joe’s entry.”

Arizona runs their elections fairly late in the cycle, so a two point lead at this stage is basically meaningless. The filing deadline doesn’t even hit until May 30th, so even more people could toss their hats in. And the actual primary election won’t take place until August 28th. That’s an eternity in politics, so the candidates will have plenty of time to make their marks.

I do have to wonder what’s going on in Arizona, though. This is being portrayed as either a litmus test of “Trumpism” or a fight between the establishment and the most conservative ranks, depending who you listen to. Both Ward and Sheriff Joe are vocal Trump supporters, as well as hardliners on immigration, while McSally is being portrayed as being in line with the McConnell “establishment” wing of the party. (Oddly enough, despite the charges against her, McSally votes in line with the Trump agenda 96.7% of the time, well above both Flake and McCain.)

This split on the right doesn’t bode well for anyone and Arpaio entering the race really isn’t any reason to be cheering. Yes, I know that many of you who hold the same positions I do on questions of immigration and law enforcement love Sheriff Joe. But if we’re going to be consistent here, he’s a problematic candidate at best. I was just writing yesterday about how it’s preposterous to consider Chelsea Manning as a Senate candidate because of his convictions for very serious crimes, despite having his sentence commuted by Barack Obama. With that in mind, we should remember that Arpaio is only available to run for this office by virtue of having been pardoned by the President. Is that where we’re setting the bar?

And if you’re not such a big fan of Kelli Ward, should you really be writing off Martha McSally that quickly? We can throw the “establishment” flag all we like, but she’s an experienced legislator who, as I just noted, has an established conservative voting record. She’s a veteran with a more than twenty year record of service as an Air Force pilot. On top of that, she’s got one heck of a set of pipes if the Senate every needs someone to sing at formal events. Have you checked out her rendition of the National Anthem at a recent University of Arizona basketball game?

If that’s not impressive enough, she belted out “God Bless America” (an arguably even tougher song to master) at the Arts Express, A Hero’s Salute Concert 2015.

That’s pretty impressive, whether you want her as a senator or not.