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Gosar eyes primary challenge to Flake

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Add Congressman Paul Gosar to the list of potential challengers U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake might face in next year’s Republican primary.

Gosar, a fourth-term representative from Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, said people have asked him to consider running against Flake, and he’s considering it.

“People are not happy. And you know, when people ask, I’m a dentist, and so I listen to what the problem is, I take in the information and make wise decisions. So I’ve made no decision, but that’s where we go,” Gosar told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Flake’s frequent clashes with President Donald Trump throughout his 2016 campaign and into the early days of his presidency have earned him the enmity of many in the Republican base. During a contentious meeting between Trump and Republican senators last year, Flake introduced himself to the then-nominee as, “Arizona’s other senator, the one who didn’t get captured,” in a reference to Trump’s criticism of fellow U.S. Sen. John McCain’s war record. Flake skipped the Republican National Convention, quipping that he couldn’t go because he had to mow his lawn.

Since Trump took office, Flake has been a vocal opponent of the president’s trade policies, especially his targeting of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Over the weekend, he pushed back against Trump’s executive order barring travel to the United States from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries.

Former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who unsuccessfully challenged McCain last year, has already declared her candidacy against Flake, whom she frequently criticized during her 2016 campaign. Most political observers don’t view her as much of a threat to Flake, but other potential candidates may be more problematic.

A great deal of speculation about Flake’s reelection has focused on state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, a close ally of Trump who in 2015 became the first statewide elected official in America to endorse the tycoon. The treasurer has hinted that he and Trump have discussed the possibility of him challenging Flake, and many observers believe he’d pose a serious threat if the president became heavily involved in the race.

DeWit said he hasn’t made any decisions about the U.S. Senate race.

“I have no idea what the future holds at this time. I know that a lot of Republicans are very disappointed that Senator Flake was so critical of our president, and even appeared in the Hillary Clinton campaign commercials,” DeWit said, referring an ad that the Democratic nominee ran last year that included footage of Flake saying he couldn’t vote for Trump. Flake did not agree to be in the ad and was critical of Clinton using him in it.

Politico recently reported that if DeWit doesn’t run, former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham might take on Flake next year. Graham, whose four-year tenure as state party chairman ended on Saturday, said he has no intention of running against Flake at this time and that, “Today I can’t see any chance of changing my mind.”

Flake has been dismissive of Ward’s candidacy, but was more ambivalent about the possibility of DeWit or another Republican jumping into the race.

“We’ll be ready for whatever comes. We always expected to have a tough primary and a general,” the senator said.

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