GOP Budget Hero Aims To Be Arizona’s Next Senator

February 14, 2011 5:50 a.m.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose views on earmarks and government spending have made him a hero of the Republican party’s fiscal right, is throwing his hat into the ring to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

Flake announced his candidacy at a press conference Monday morning, less than a week after Kyl said he would be retiring after more than two decades in Washington.

Democrats have not yet said what they’ll do to contest the open Senate seat, though some have said the recovering Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) could make a run if she fully recovers. With Flake, the Republicans now have an imposing candidate with national credentials, who’s sure to please the anti-government crowd.On the day Kyl announced his retirement, the Club For Growth — the ultra-hawkish fiscal policy group — urged Flake to get in the race, citing him as “one of America’s most vocal champions for limited government and economic liberty.”

Within moments of Flake’s announcement, the Club offered its formal endorsement, and suggested some national money was coming his way.

“Club for Growth PAC will do everything it can in the Republican primary and the general election to help him win this race,” group president Chris Chocola said in a statement.

But observers expect Flake to face a full field of opponents in the Republican primary, despite his national celebrity and already fairly large campaign coffer. CNN reported Flake has more than $600,000 in campaign cash heading into a Senate run, a great place to start from in any state.

Despite his financial advantage, Flake could face a fight in a primary. He’s supported comprehensive immigration reform, which tea partiers dismiss out of hand as “amnesty.” As the Arizona Republic reported, he also “crossed party lines as one of only 15 House Republicans” to vote for a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The potential list of Republicans that may challenge Flake, from the Arizona Republic:

Republicans could include Flake, [Rep. Trent] Franks, former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, former state Attorney General Grant Woods, former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former state Treasurer Dean Martin, Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Other names mentioned include Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has his own national following.

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