GOP Sen. Jeff Flake Says He Will Not Run For Re-Election

Bill Clark/CQPHO

Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, on Tuesday announced that he will not run for re-election.

The senator broke the news in an interview with his hometown newspaper, and shortly thereafter took to the Senate floor to deliver a scathing critique of President Trump.

“There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party,” Flake said in an interview with the Arizona Republic.

In his speech on the Senate floor, Flake was even more outspoken in his criticism of the political moment under Trump.

“I have children and grandchildren to answer to. And so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent,” Flake said in a speech that centered around the degradation of political civility in the age of Trump.

He criticized the “coarseness of our leadership” and the “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.”

“When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say? Mr. President, I rise today to say, enough,” Flake said. “We have fooled ourselves long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now we all know better than that.”

“We must stop pretending that the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has been excused as ‘telling it like it is’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” Flake continued. “And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.”

Flake told the Arizona Republic he has “no intention” of running for President.

“Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” he said in the interview. “It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”

Trump attacked Flake by name during an August rally in Arizona, and signaled that he would support a primary challenger against the senator.

Flake said he was not concerned that Trump would seize on his announcement as a victory.

“They can say whatever they want to say,” he said of Trump and former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told TPM that he was “very sorry” to hear about Flake’s retirement.

“I’m very sorry it happened,” McCain told TPM. “He’s one of the most honorable men I’ve ever known.”

Appearing on CNN after his announcement on the Senate floor, Flake cited Trump’s speech in June 2015 calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” his remarks about McCain, his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the “Access Hollywood” tape where Trump bragged about kissing and groping women as examples of objectionable behavior.

Asked why Flake doesn’t run for re-election to defend the ideology he espoused in his remarks, Flake said, “It’s difficult to win a Republican primary these days if you disagree with the President on anything, or if you countenance his behavior, which I don’t think we ought to normalize.”

“I think that this fever will break,” he added. “I don’t know that it will break by next year.”

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK