Beware the Temporary Conservative. Arizona Shows You Why

By Rachel Alexander Published on July 31, 2018

A scenario that is played out all too often in elections: A Republican candidate with a moderate voting record runs for office professing to be a conservative. Once elected, he pivots back to his moderate voting habits. The voters wouldn’t have chosen him if they’d known he was lying.

Candidates often pretend to be conservative on immigration. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) infuriated the conservative base in recent years by pretending to be tough on illegal immigration during his political campaigns. But once elected, he resumed the voting record that earned him the nickname “John McAmnesty.”

This same scenario is now playing out in Arizona’s senate election. The temporary conservative? Moderate Republican Rep. Martha McSally.

One Moderate and Two Conservatives

After Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced he was not running for reelection to the U.S. Senate, three prominent candidates entered the race.

Kelli Ward, a former state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for Senate against John McCain two years ago, jumped in. So did former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but many don’t believe that at age 86 he’s a serious candidate.

The third well-known candidate in the race is McSally, who represents a Democratic-leaning district. The Arizona Daily Independent reports that — no surprise — John McCain is pushing her candidacy.

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Ward appeared to be leading in the race until Arpaio jumped in. Now, the conservative base is split between Ward and Arpaio loyalists, giving McSally the lead. Arpaio is in third place. McSally is averaging 10 points ahead of Ward.

Some Ward supporters are urging Arpaio to drop out of the race, but so far he has not. According to One News Now, “If Arpaio were removed from the equation, it’s likely that Ward could defeat McSally in the August 28 primary.”

Tired Conservatives

Arizona conservatives are tired of moderate and liberal Republicans representing them in the Senate. The state is still fairly conservative. So why has it got people like McCain representing it? Because they’re temporary conservatives, and too many voters fall for it.

McSally votes as one of the more liberal Republicans in Congress. The American Conservative Union rates her voting record as less conservative than McCain’s and Flake’s. Here’s something to notice (see page 23): Her lifetime score is 72%. Her score in 2016 was also 72%. Her score last year? 85%.

The American Conservative Union rates McSally’s voting record as less conservative than McCain and Flake.

72% is moderate Republicanism. Even McCain’s lifetime score is 81%. Flake’s is 94%. (See page 10.)

Yet McSally now pretends to be a conservative, talking tough on immigration. This is not accurate. She helped craft a bill that would have provided renewable status for “Dreamers.” Ward opposed it. McSally said she supports DACA legislation along with border security. She said, “I have also consistently shown — with my votes, words and actions — that I am willing to support a legislative solution for the DACA population.”

McSally distanced herself from President Trump during the 2016 election. In contrast, Ward embraced him and Trump has tweeted positively about her. However, McSally does have the support of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Tellingly, McSally’s campaign website doesn’t contain her positions on issues. Ward’s website does. Blog for Arizona, a popular Democratic blog in Arizona, observes, the “Left and Right agree: Martha McSally is a fraudulent candidate.” 

Two Dismal Choices in the General Election?

The winner will face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the general election. The Arizona Federation of Taxpayers awarded Sinema the Vladimir I. Lenin award a few years ago for being the most far left legislator in the Arizona legislature. The American Conservative Union gave her voting record in Congress a dismal 13.04 rating.

McSally distanced herself from President Trump during the 2016 election.

But surprise! She’s also running her campaign to the right, pretending to be a conservative in flashy TV ads. It will be a close race, and at least one poll shows Ward can beat Sinema. But unless Arpaio drops out of the race, Arizona looks headed to elect another liberal U.S. Senator.

McSally has a poor record as a conservative and there is no reason to believe she has really changed. Conservative Arizona U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar endorsed Ward. He said, “We cannot afford another establishment patsy who promises one thing and votes differently.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.
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