The already complicated Arizona Senate race just got even more bizarre.
Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward, a Republican who’s been focused on her ties to President Trump, has now enlisted a well-known conspiracy theorist and alt-right troll to participate in her campaign.
Pizzagate propagator Mike Cernovich is among the cast of characters — a veritable who’s who of far-right personalities — that is scheduled to partake in Ward’s upcoming “Road to Victory” campaign tour later this week. The tour, which will also feature an appearance from conservative commentator Tomi Lahren and a video shoutout by Iowa Rep. Steve King, is Ward’s last-ditch effort to convince voters of her Trump bona fides as she seeks to fend off challenges from former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Rep. Martha McSally.
Ward — who first ran for Senate in a race against John McCain in 2016 — has positioned herself as a Republican molded in Trump’s image, who’s willing to call bullshit on the establishment and moderates like McCain and Jeff Flake. “We’re Through With Lying, Fake ‘Conservatives,’” her campaign website emphasizes. Her Twitter account is also dedicated to slamming RINOs (Republicans in name only) and includes frequent attacks on McSally as well as the state’s current senators.
Ward’s association with Cernovich appears to be part of her latest effort to appeal to far-right Republican voters in advance of the state’s heated Senate primary next week, and an attempt to further define herself as anti-establishment. When asked about her connections to the alt-right in a recent MSNBC interview, however, Ward struggled to distance herself from the movement — which has become synonymous with bigotry toward women and minorities — even as she welcomed one of its key ambassadors to her campaign.
Ward ultimately seemed to admit her true aims: She’s interested in using Cernovich’s platform and doesn’t seem to mind that it’s previously involved comments defending rape and the promotion of fake theories like Pizzagate, which have spurred violence.
“Mike Cernovich has an audience that we want to reach, and that includes Republicans, conservatives, liberals, Democrats, people of all ilks,” she said. “And so if he’s coming on the bus tour, I think he’ll have a voice and he’ll have something that he wants to say.”
With just over a week left before the state’s primary next Tuesday, Ward is racing to take down Arpaio, a fellow Trump acolyte, and McSally, who’s widely seen as the establishment pick and the frontrunner. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Ward trails McSally by roughly 8 percentage points.
One of the key factors that have pushed Ward’s campaign further and further to the right is Arpaio’s entry into the race. While Ward was seen as the de facto Trump candidate before he opted to run and even garnered the president’s praise on Twitter, Arpaio has effectively split this base of support and forced Ward to scramble as they both face off against McSally.
So far, the president has kept mum about his current preferences in this race — intermittently doling out praise to Ward, McSally, and Arpaio and frustrating some Republicans in the process. It’s unclear whether Ward’s latest stunt will have any impact on his calculus.