|Chair of the Arizona Republican Party|
|Assumed office |
January 26, 2019
|Preceded by||Jonathan Lines|
|Member of the Arizona Senate|
from the 5th district
January 14, 2013 – December 15, 2015
|Preceded by||Ron Gould|
|Succeeded by||Sue Donahue|
January 25, 1969
Fairmont, West Virginia, U.S.
|Education||Duke University (BS)|
West Virginia School of
Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
A.T. Still University, Arizona (MPH)
Kelli Ward (née Kaznoski; born January 25, 1969) is an American politician who has served as the Chair of the Arizona Republican Party since 2019. A Republican, she previously served in the Arizona State Senate from 2012 to 2015. Ward challenged Senator John McCain in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in 2016. She resigned from the State Senate to focus on the race; Ward was subsequently defeated 51% to 39%.
Early life and education
She earned a BS in psychology from Duke University, where she was a contributor to the Duke Chanticleer. She was awarded a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and also received a master's degree in public health from A.T. Still University.
After Republican Senator Ron Gould left the Legislature and left the District 5 seat open, Ward won the three-way August 28, 2012, Republican primary in a highly contested election with 9,925 votes (42.2%,) in a field which included State Representative Nancy McLain. Ward won the November 6, 2012 general election with 49,613 votes (71.2%) against Democratic nominee Beth Weiser, who had run for a Senate seat in 2010.
Ward has changed her position on abortion over time. In 2012, Ward said that she wanted the government to play no role in the decision to have an abortion, saying, "My preference would be that a patient and a doctor talk to each other about the risks, the benefits, what is the potential outcome for the mother should she choose to have a procedure like that, instead of having the government trying to make those decisions." By 2016, she described herself as "pro-life." Her spokesman Stephen Sebastian said that she maintained a pro-life record in the state senate and supported a "human life amendment" to the U.S. Constitution. She said that Planned Parenthood "sells dismembered baby body parts."
In January 2014, Ward introduced the Arizona Fourth Amendment Protection Act, which would "ban the state from engaging in activities which help the NSA carry out their warrantless data-collection programs, or even make use of the information on a local level."
U.S. Senate primary elections
On July 14, 2015, Ward announced she would be entering the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Arizona, against long-time incumbent John McCain, who was viewed by many political analysts as a top target of the Tea Party movement and by other Republican conservatives. On December 2, 2015, Ward announced that per Arizona's resign-to-run laws, she would resign from the state senate, effective December 15, in order to dedicate her time to running for the U.S. Senate. She was succeeded by Sue Donahue.
On July 11, 2016, Ward published an ad on her Facebook page saying that John McCain, her primary opponent for the 2016 Republican primary Senate election, was too friendly with Secretary Hillary Clinton. The ad said that they were nearly identical in their political beliefs, stating that "they agree" on issues such as "amnesty for illegal immigrants," opposing President George W. Bush's tax cuts, a gasoline tax, and "blocking conservative judges." The ad was an identical copy of a 2008 ad published by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney, except that Ward replaced Romney's approval message at the end of the video with her own. Romney's lawyers contacted Ward and her campaign ordering her to cease any further use of the ad, stating Romney for President did not authorize any use of the ad. Ward's campaign did not dispute the similarities, telling reporters that "Mitt Romney got it right." Stephen Sebastian, Ward's spokesman, added "If the shoe fits, wear it. The substance is still the same. Some things never change."
In August 2016, Ward lost the primary to McCain.
In October 2016, Ward announced that she would run in the 2018 Republican primary against incumbent Senator Jeff Flake (who later announced he would retire from the Senate). Ward criticized Flake for being "an open-borders, amnesty globalist," describing herself as "a build-the-wall, stop-illegal-immigration Americanist." In the primary, Ward faced U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio and Ward were considered in contention for the same group of primary voters, as they are both highly conservative and staunchly pro-Trump, whereas McSally has a more moderate record.
In July 2017, after McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer, Ward said that she hoped that McCain would resign as quickly as possible. Ward said in a radio interview, "I hope that Senator McCain is going to look long and hard at this, that his family and his advisers are going to look at this, and they're going to advise him to step away as quickly as possible. So that the business of the country and the business of Arizona being represented at the federal level can move forward... We can't have until the 2018 election, waiting around to accomplish the Trump agenda, to secure the border and stop illegal immigration and repeal Obamacare and fix the economy and fix the veterans administration, all those things need to be done and we can't be at a standstill while we wait for John McCain to determine what he's going to do." Ward said that she hoped that Arizona's governor would consider appointing her to fill McCain's seat.
In August 2017, several events affected her campaign. She expressed her support for President Trump's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt of court. Billionaire Robert Mercer — who had supported Ward's 2016 campaign — announced that he would donate $300,000 to a Super PAC supporting her 2018 run.
Also in that month, a video attack ad appeared accusing Ward of agreeing with the chemtrails conspiracy theory and referring to her as "Chemtrail Kelli". The advertisement was sponsored by the Senate Leadership Fund, aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and may have been the first time Ward came to the attention of "many outside Arizona" according to journalist Clare Malone, (an ad on the subject of chemtrails and Ward first appeared in the 2016 Senate race with McCain). Politifact rated the claim that Ward "hosted a town hall on 'chemtrail conspiracy theories' and is open to sponsoring chemtrails legislation" as "mostly false", and factcheck.org labeled the ad "misleading". Ward criticized the ad as demonstrating "sexism reserved for conservative women".
In October 2017, Ward was formally endorsed by former Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon in her 2018 campaign. Ward appeared together with Bannon to announce the endorsement. She was also endorsed by Great America PAC, which has been described as "an arm of Team Bannon." Bannon has said he believes Ward will help build a wall on the southern border of the US and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Ward later attempted to distance herself from Bannon in the aftermath of Bannon's public falling-out with Trump, whose endorsement Ward also sought, according to The Arizona Republic. In January 2018, Ward said: "Steve Bannon, I don't know that I actually really got a full endorsement from Steve ... He's not somebody that I've reached out and talked to in any way, shape, or form ... I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon." Ward was also endorsed by Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Rep. Steve King, and Sen. Rand Paul.
In May 2018, Joe Arpaio accused Ward of having enticed him to bow out of the Republican primary in exchange for lucrative speaking gigs with a pro-Trump group; the Ward campaign denied the accusation. The primary was described as "contentious", with Ward refusing to say whether she would support McSally in the general election if she would win the Republican nomination.
In June 2018, The Arizona Republic reported that Ward's ties to controversial and fringe conservative figures were undermining her campaign. During the campaign, Ward disavowed Paul Nehlen, an anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim commentator whom she had previously praised and described as a "friend". Ward praised Nehlen when he unsuccessfully sought to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2016. She appeared together with Nehlen on a number of occasions. Ward's husband, who was also a campaign surrogate, has promoted conspiracy theories about Seth Rich, the Clintons murdering people and John McCain cooperating with the Islamic State. In August 2018, Ward announced a campaign bus tour featuring Mike Cernovich, an alt-right media personality and conspiracy theorist. Cernovich had promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, falsely alleging the existence of a widespread pedophile network within the Clinton campaign, whose existence Ward refused to deny. When Ward was asked if she agreed with Cernovich's beliefs, she said that she didn't know much about his views.
On August 24, 2018, the day of the announcement that Senator John McCain was ceasing medical treatment for terminal brain cancer, one of Ward's campaign staffers questioned on Facebook if the announcement "was a plan to take media attention off [Ward's] campaign" on "the kickoff day of Kelli Ward's bus tour". In response, Ward wrote: "I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me." McCain died hours after Ward's initial comment, which was deleted or removed from public viewing. Ward then made a follow up comment (later also deleted or hidden) that the "media loves a narrative ... it's the media making something out of nothing."
Chair of Arizona Republican Party
In 2019 Ward was elected chair of Arizona Republican Party on a campaign platform of the Republican Party of Arizona supporting Republican presidential incumbent Donald Trump in 2020.
|Clair Van Steenwyk||21,476||3.6%|
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- Min Kim, Seung (October 27, 2016). "Kelli Ward aims to oust Flake in 2018". Politico. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Bowman, Bridget (October 27, 2016). "Flake Gets 2018 Primary Challenge". Roll Call. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- "State of Arizona Official Canvass 2012 Primary Election August 28, 2012" (PDF). Phoenix, Arizona: Secretary of State of Arizona. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2013. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
- "State of Arizona Official Canvass 2012 General Election November 6, 2012" (PDF). Phoenix, Arizona: Secretary of State of Arizona. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2013. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
- Morgan Chalfant (May 13, 2016). "'Pro-life' Republican candidate not always tough on abortion". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Boldin, Michael (November 21, 2013). "Arizona 4th Amendment Protection Act Introduced, Bans Help to NSA, use of Warrantless Data in Court | Tenth Amendment Center Blog". Blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
- "Arizona Legislation Tells NSA 'You're Not Welcome Here'". Tenth Amendment Center. December 9, 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
- "2014 Primary Election Full Listing". Arizona Secretary of State. November 7, 2014. Archived from the original on January 22, 2015.
- "2014 General Election Full Listing". Arizona Secretary of State. November 7, 2014. Archived from the original on March 4, 2015.
- "Arizona GOP lawmaker announces run against Sen. John McCain". KTAR. Associated Press. July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
- "Arizona Sen. Kelli Ward to resign from seat to focus on run against John McCain". KTAR. December 2, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
- Pitzl, Mary Joe (December 22, 2015). "Next lawmaker up: Sue Donahue is newest Arizona state senator". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- "Kelli Ward puts her name on old Mitt Romney ad, uses it to attack John McCain". azcentral.
- Baker, David (July 13, 2016). "Claims of plagiarism over campaign ad". azfamily.com. Archived from the original on September 21, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
- "Cease and Desist Letter on Behalf of Romney for President to Kelli Ward".
- "Romney Camp Demands Kelli Ward Stop Re-using Its 2008 Ad Bashing McCain". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
- "John McCain defeats Kelli Ward in Republican Senate primary". azcentral. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- Malone, Clare. "The GOP's Identity Crisis Has Overtaken Arizona's Senate Race". five thirty eight. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
- "Arpaio: Ward's campaign suggested I quit Senate race for pro-Trump gig". azcentral. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
- Ax, Joseph. "Ex-combat pilot McSally takes on sheriff Arpaio in Arizona Senate race". U.S. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
- Massie, Chris; Kaczynski, Andrew. "Jeff Flake primary challenger: McCain should step aside 'as quickly as possible' after cancer diagnosis". CNN. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- Reilly, Katie. "Arizona Senate Candidate: McCain Should 'Step Away as Quickly as Possible'". Time. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- "Critics: Trump pardon his latest affront against judiciary". Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
- Isenstadt, Alex (August 9, 2017). "Top Trump donor ponies up to take out Flake". politico.com. Politico. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Tobias, Manuela (August 25, 2017). "No, Kelli Ward isn't a chemtrails conspiracy theorist". politifact. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
- Nowicki, Dan (May 29, 2016). "Sen. John McCain ads link rival Kelli Ward to 'chemtrails' conspiracy theory". The Republic, azcentral.com. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
- Gore, D'Angelo (August 28, 2017). "Misleading 'Chemtrail Kelli' Ad". factcheck.org. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
- Kelli Ward downplays ties to Steve Bannon after Donald Trump unloads on him. Dan Nowicki. Arizona Republic, January 4, 2018
- "Bannon endorses Ward, signaling Trump supporters have settled on a challenger to Flake". azcentral. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- "Interview with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Aired 8-8:30a ET". CNN. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
- Shelbourne, Mallory (August 23, 2017). "Hannity backs Kelli Ward in primary against Flake". TheHill. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
- "Kelli Ward may have missed her shot in the GOP primary for Senate. Here's why". azcentral. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- "Immigration hard-liner Steve King endorses Kelli Ward in Arizona's U.S. Senate race". azcentral. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
- Conradis, Brandon (November 1, 2017). "Rand Paul endorses Arizona's Kelli Ward". TheHill. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
- CNN, Dan Merica,. "Ward refuses to say whether she'd back McSally as Arizona primary nears". CNN. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
- CNN, Andrew Kaczynski,. "GOP Senate candidate Kelli Ward disavows anti-Semite Paul Nehlen". CNN. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- Bowden, John (June 13, 2018). "Arizona GOP Senate candidate walks back past support for 'fringe' candidate Paul Nehlen". TheHill. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- CNN, Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott,. "Arizona Senate candidate's husband, who is a top campaign surrogate, spread conspiracy theories online". CNN. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
- "Dr. Kelli Ward Announces "Road to Victory" Bus Tour". www.kelliward.com. August 17, 2018. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- Birnbaum, Emily (August 19, 2018). "Arizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist". Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- "Arizona, and the Republican Party, after John McCain". The Economist. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Gstalter, Morgan (August 26, 2018). "GOP Arizona Senate candidate suggested McCain family statement on cancer treatment was meant to hurt her campaign". The Hill.
- Phillips, Kristine. "Senate candidate Kelli Ward suggests McCain timed pre-death announcement to hurt her campaign". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
- "Arizona Primary Election Results". New York Times. August 29, 2018. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
- "Conservative Kelli Ward to lead Arizona Republican Party after upset". Azcentral.com. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Arizona State Legislature. Senate. Kelly Ward.
- "Election Statistics". Arizona Capitol Times. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
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- "Election Statistics" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State Office. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
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- "Election Statistics" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State Office. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
- "Election Statistics" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State Office. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
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| Member of the Arizona Senate from the 5th district