Arizona Republic’s Dan Nowicki: ‘There’s been chatter’ Flake struggled in polls for more than a year

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Hours before he took to the Senate floor Tuesday to announce he is not running for a new term, Sen. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.) told his state’s top political reporter why he was getting out.

“Jeff Flake has been struggling for a long time in this Age of Donald Trump,” said Dan Nowicki, a political reporter at the Arizona Republic about the senator’s decision to return to private life.

“This spell will pass, but not by next year,” the reporter said Flake told him. “Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take.”

Flake’s decision was not out of the blue, the reporter said. “His polls have been bad for over a year, so there’s been chatter regarding Flake not running–it was never taken seriously.”

Nowicki said the senator told him that he felt like he was out of place and did not fit in anymore.

The reporter said Flake was put off by the tone of President Donald J. Trump and his policies for securing the border and opposing free trade deals.

In the race to replace Flake, Dr. Kelli Ward is the obvious frontrunner, he said.

On the Senate floor, Flake spoke for more than five minutes about his decision and his view of public life.

“Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles,” Flake said. In the Senate rules, all speech is directed at the presiding officer, thus Mr. President, not the national president.

“Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely,” Flake said.

“We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.”