Power

The no-good, totally awful people running for Senate in Arizona

A parade of clowns is lining up for the vacant seat.
Power

The no-good, totally awful people running for Senate in Arizona

A parade of clowns is lining up for the vacant seat.

Now that former Trump administration “strategist” Steve Bannon has been cast out of Washington, D.C., his ill-fated plan to replace every establishment Republican with an unhinged fascist has morphed into a leaderless free-for-all. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the August 2018 Republican primary for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat. Flake, who plans to retire in 2018, has been one of Trump’s fiercest critics within the GOP (though his voting record is far more obsequious). This has made the Trump wing of the party eager to replace him — so eager that they seemingly forgot that the comparatively moderate Flake only won his last election in 2012 by three percent (Trump won Arizona in 2016 by a similar margin, underperforming Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush). With its growing Hispanic population and aging white population (retirement communities are a significant voting bloc), Arizona is primed to join Nevada and New Mexico in leaning Democratic. In spite of all this, a startling number of far-right lunatics seem to believe the state would respond better to Trumpism than solid-red Alabama, which rejected Bannon’s anointed candidate in a historic upset last month. Here are those far-right lunatics, listed from least to most insane.

Rep. Martha McSally

Rep. Martha McSally is the race’s establishment candidate, if that designation still means anything. She won her current seat in 2014 by a margin of 167 votes. McSally has firmly attached herself to Trump and his platform, and she recently co-sponsored Trump-backed immigration legislation that “secures the border, ends chain migration, cancels the visa lottery, and addresses the status of the DACA population in a responsible fashion.” Though McSally is well to the right of Sen. Flake and likely too racist to win his seat, she has the best shot at securing the Republican nomination. Alas, the Trump base has deemed her not racist enough. According to Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia who now works for Tea Party advocacy groups, McSally “has a very liberal voting record.”

Kelli Ward

Then you have Kelli Ward, an Arizona state senator whose candidacy was initially a pet project of Steve Bannon’s. In 2017, Ward — who was previously best known for running against John McCain in 2016 — launched her campaign against Flake with speeches by Bannon and Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Like Breitbart of yore, Ward’s campaign is bankrolled by billionaire Robert Mercer, and she even speaks in Bannonisms: “[Flake] is an open-borders, amnesty globalist. Whereas I am a build-the-wall, stop-illegal-immigration Americanist,” she told FiveThirtyEight last year. Bannon and the campaign were fairly open about Ward being a pawn in their war on Flake for refusing to endorse Trump. This made things awkward for her when Bannon was fired from the White House, disavowed by the president for talking shit about his old colleagues in a new book, and then ousted from Breitbart. In a January interview with CNN, Ward blatantly lied when asked about Bannon’s relationship to her campaign. “[Bannon] was never part of my campaign. He was never an adviser. I mean, he's not somebody that I'd reach out and talk to in any way, shape or form. So it's funny that you and especially the establishment would love to tie me to Steve Bannon,” she said. To her credit, she didn’t have any good options in responding to such a question. If she stood by Bannon after Trump dubbed him “Sloppy Steve,” she couldn’t credibly market herself as a MAGA true believer. But without the context of Bannon’s war on the establishment, who is she?

Joe Arpaio

If Ward doesn’t have enough name recognition to survive without Bannon, Joe Arpaio certainly does, and he announced his candidacy last week. Arpaio, formerly “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” is one of the worst living humans not just in America, but in the world. He has a body count which rivals that of most serial killers, and he once bragged about turning the Maricopa County Jail into a concentration camp. His sadistic experiments, however, were disproportionately targeted at Latinos, which has made him a hero to the racist BMW owners who comprise the “populist right.” His “support Donald Trump” platform is identical to McSally’s and Ward’s, but being able to boast that the president personally pardoned him (last August, for a contempt of court conviction) gives Arpaio a slight edge.

Needless to say, Arpaio is a horrible candidate. He is 85 years old and a convicted criminal. He lost his last re-election campaign despite being a multi-term incumbent and spending $11 million more than his opponent. He has no political experience, no education (he would be the only senator without a college degree), and no expertise beyond writing checks for wrongful arrest settlements. He once collaborated with Steven Seagal. To the sort of humanoid ball of resentment who would cast a vote for him, none of this matters. Modern-day Republicans are primarily interested in taunting liberals with outlandish displays of bigotry, not with winning elections. If the buffoon they voted for wins and accidentally fulfills his campaign promise to ban ISIS from crossing the Mexican border in order to sell children meth that looks like candy, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s okay too, because no one was doing that in the first place. The Arpaio/Trump base just wants to hear racism blaring over a PA system — and racism just announced a new tour.

Craig Brittain

Last and also least is Craig Brittain, an infamous online grifter who frequently complains that the “Fake News Media” won’t cover his fledgling campaign. This one's for you, Craig! Brittain gives Trump a run for his money as the dumbest, most malevolent person ever to run for office. It isn’t clear what the 33-year-old actually does at the moment, but he has quite the resume. He used to run the revenge porn website “IsAnybodyDown,” which posted stolen nudes along with the victims’ contact information. According to a 2015 filing by the Federal Trade Commission, Brittain “promised to have consumers’ content removed from the Website in exchange for a payment of $200 to $500” and “earned approximately $12,000” as a result. When that well dried up, he attempted to found an Uber competitor called “Dryvyng.” By all accounts, his marketing strategy for Dryvyng was to send unsolicited friend requests to venture capitalists on Facebook. When one of his potential patrons questioned him about this, he responded with a friendly “Hope you leave my country soon. And take your fucking Arab socialist communist friends with you. Fuckin' towelhead piece-of-shit invader. Fuckin commie.” Dryvyng was eventually renamed to “RIDE” and launched without Silicon Valley backing in 2017. As of this writing, it has a single Google Play review which reads “I think Ride is fantastic, the site [sic] is easy to navagate [sic], I had no trouble. I give 5 stars.”

Brittain’s platform is essentially identical to Ron Paul’s from 2008. He wants to end the Federal Reserve, abolish income tax and dismantle Medicare and Social Security. None of that has anything to do with Trump, but Brittain closely mimics his rhetorical style nonetheless. If his past weren’t so well-documented, one might assume the whole thing is a Trump parody. In Brittain’s tweets, Kelli Ward is “Crooked Kelli Ward” and she only lost to John McCain in 2014 because she got paid to throw the election. Like Trump, he lies at the drop of a hat, and he recently advertised a bogus campaign event with a massive guest list including Tucker Carlson, Dinesh D’Souza, Snoop Dogg, and Run the Jewels. When several of his supposed “guests” called him out, he quietly changed the event’s description to “Guests will be announced soon.”

Republican primary voters in Arizona, take heed: if the goal of this primary is to nominate whichever unelectable imbecile can best approximate Donald Trump’s public persona — and that seems to be the case — Craig Brittain is the only reasonable choice. He has no experience, a long history of sexual misconduct, and multiple failed business ventures under his belt. If someone has to symbolize the death of Trumpism by losing Jeff Flake’s seat to a Democrat by 40 points, it should be him.

Alex Nichols is a contributing writer at The Outline.