Two prominent staffers on Arizona Republican Kelli Ward’s primary campaign against sitting Sen. Jeff Flake have officially issued an apology to everyone in the state for helping to legitimize Ward as a serious political candidate.
The two staffers, Dustin Stockton and Jen Lawrence, resigned from the Ward campaign in recent weeks. Stockton was Ward’s chief strategist. Lawrence was the candidate’s press secretary.
Stockton and Lawrence say they were responsible for managing Ward’s current U.S. Senate campaign from May 2017 until September 2017. They identify themselves as prominent grassroots activists. Both are also former Breitbart reporters.
“After running her campaign, we’ve realized that our successful efforts to legitimize her campaign was a mistake,” Lawrence said in a Tuesday press release.
The two newly-former campaign aides say they were responsible for transforming Ward from a fringe candidate into a bona fide contender flush with donor cash and volunteer support.
Financier Robert Mercer and his wife Diana donated $300,000 to a super PAC supporting Ward while Stockton and Lawrence were the campaign’s stewards.
Breitbart, the populist conservative website run by Steve Bannon, published friendly articles supporting Ward in her 2016 primary run against Sen. John McCain. Breitbart has also been supportive of Ward in her bid against Flake.
“Her campaign was such a disaster that we saw an opportunity to prove how much we can help struggling campaigns and we did just that,” Stockton, the former Breitbart writer, said. “Unfortunately, she showed that she isn’t up to the task of standing up to the pressure that causes so many candidates to betray voters when they get to Washington.”
Stockton and Lawrence say they gravitated to Ward in the hope that she would be a “good limited government advocate.”
“We got to know Kelli when we were at Breitbart,” Stockton told The Daily Caller on Wednesday. “We told her to go with an ‘America first’ message.” (RELATED: Is Steve Bannon Overrated?)
Stockton said he and Lawrence worked to position Ward effectively as a grassroots conservative for the primary. They became disillusioned, they said, after concluding that Ward’s ambition to become a U.S. senator is far more important to her than any actual policy issues.
“What we found is that she is willing to adopt whatever methods she thinks will work at the time,” Stockton said. “She will set anything aside in order to pursue her own ambition.”
Stockton said he has come to believe that Ward will quickly abandon any pretense of “America first” activism if she ever wins a U.S. Senate seat.
The former Ward staffer believes Ward will not ultimately support President Donald Trump’s much-repeated promise to construct a large wall along the border separating the United States and Mexico. (RELATED: SHOCK POLL: Nearly Two-Thirds Of Arizona Voters Think Trump’s Border Wall Is Unnecessary)
He doesn’t trust the candidate he advised on foreign policy, either. “She has no chops to handle increasingly unstable regions around the world,” he said.
He also believes Ward will not support tax simplification, Obamacare repeal or policies to decrease the scope of the federal government.
“People run and say all the things we want them to say. Then, they get to Washington, D.C. and don’t do what they said,” Stockton told TheDC.
“In the Senate, you have pressure from a lot of people and you have to be willing to stand up for your convictions. She’ll cave to whatever group she thinks will further her ambitions.”
“We showed her how to run a campaign. At the first opportunity, she sold out the grassroots,” he said.
“As soon as people saw this was a legitimate campaign, all these people came out of the woodwork. That’s the candidate’s chance to stand up to the swamp.”
“She started to surround herself with people whose agenda is not the grassroots,” Stockton said.
“We had donors and volunteers who would stand in 110-degree heat supporting her. They’ve been calling us and asking us why they are ignored.”
Stockton noted that Ward hosted an event on Tuesday night which she described as a campaign kickoff in Scottsdale, Arizona. (It featured television personalities Laura Ingraham and J.D. Hayworth.) However, Ward actually launched her current primary campaign against Flake prior to the conclusion of the 2016 general election — before John McCain, who beat her in a 2016 primary, had even won his current term.
Also, in July, when McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, Ward decided it would be a good idea to call on McCain to quit so Gov. Doug Ducey would give her the job.
Stockton appears to have come to the conclusion that Ward will be no better than Flake — and maybe worse.
“Jeff Flake hasn’t been all that terrible except for his opposition to Trump,” he said.
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Stockton also said he is pessimistic about Ward’s chances to defeat a Democratic challenger if she wins the Senate primary.
“The way we see it, she’s just not ready for prime time,” he told TheDC.
Arizona Republicans have “a deep well of people” and several could run for the Senate in 2018, the former Ward chief strategist added,
“I do hope that Arizona will have better choices that Jeff Flake versus Kelli Ward.”
Stockton and Lawrence say Ward did not fire them or ask them to quit.
“We resigned. She’ll say she was taking her campaign to the next level.”
A spokesman for the Ward campaign said he had no comment. Then he said Ward is not concerned that two prominent campaign staffers have resigned and publicly apologized for supporting her.
“We’re going to put together something,” the spokesman, Zach Henry, told TheDC. “It’s not a big deal, honestly. We’re not putting out any kind of official statement.”