Ward vacates Senate seat to put full effort into McCain challenge

Kelli Ward (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

Kelli Ward (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

PHOENIX -- Outfunded and relatively unknown, Kelli Ward announced Wednesday she is quitting her seat in the state Senate to concentrate on her bid to oust incumbent U.S. Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary.

The move comes as Ward's last financial disclosure report shows donations of just $526,000 as compared to the nearly $5 million McCain has so far amassed. And even that figure for Ward is inflated: It includes an $85,000 loan to her own campaign.

But Ward, in a press conference in Kingman, told supporters she's not deterred, saying what's she's raised so far is "nothing short of spectacular.'

"I raised more than any insurgent candidate for the United States Senate over the last four cycles, for their first quarter out, than anyone -- other than Sen. Ted Cruz,' she said, referring to the Texas senator now running for president.

She figures, though, it will take more than double what she has now to wage a winning campaign.

"My goal is to increase my name recognition, increase the knowledge of the electorate that we have a competent, qualified, effective leader who is ready to hit the ground running in Washington, D.C.,' she said.

But neither Ward nor her campaign manager would explain why someone who represents a legislative district in northwest Arizona would choose to make an announcement in Kingman rather that Phoenix where she would have gotten television and radio coverage.

Ward also acknowledged she is short of local endorsements. The lone exception she mentioned is former state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the architect of Arizona's 2010 law designed to give police more power to question and detain people not in this country legally.

Pearce, however, was recalled by members of his own legislative district.

Ward is hoping that her gender helps her make up some of the difference.

"Arizona has never had a female United States senator,' she told her supporters.

But she quickly realized that only goes so far: The Democrat nominee is likely to be Ann Kirkpatrick. So Ward added that Arizona needs to send the first ``Republican woman' from Arizona to the Senate.

A statewide poll last month of 226 registered Republicans found 45 percent had not yet decided who to support in the race. Ward, supported by just 11 percent of those asked, would need to pick up virtually all of them to win.

Her resignation, effective later this month, sets in motion a procedure that eventually will result in the Mohave County Board of Supervisors picking a replacement.

There already were two Republicans who had announced they intended to vie for the seat even before Ward chose to quit: Former Sen. Ron Gould and current Rep. Sonny Borrelli.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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