WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Az.), one of the most prominent critics of President Donald Trump and a key target of Steve Bannon, said on Tuesday he was out of step with his party and would not seek re-election.
“There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party,” Flake, whose term ends in 2018, told the Arizona Republic. Flake added that he would not run as an independent.
In a dramatic speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, Flake said American politics had become “inured” to “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior from the White House.
“The instinct to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people,” said Flake.
Flake was among the members of Congress targeted by Steve Bannon, CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and former White House senior strategist. Bannon has promised to unseat 15 candidates who have appeared to back Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over Trump.
Bannon, who helped mastermind Trump’s election campaign but left the White House in August, appeared at a gathering of conservative activists on Saturday and declared: “Right now, it’s a season of war against a GOP establishment.”
In comments directed at McConnell, Bannon told the gathering: “Up on Capitol Hill, it’s like the Ides of March. They’re just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”
Brutus, once an ally of Caesar, was among the assassins of the Roman leader on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.
Working with well-funded outside political groups, Bannon is encouraging anti-establishment candidates to challenge Republican incumbents in the party’s nominating races for the 2018 elections in which all the seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for election.
Republican leaders worry that the anti-establishment candidates might be less palatable to general election voters and cause Republicans to lose their majority in the Senate and possibly also the House.
N.C. Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-09)h as one of those seats that Bannon may be after. Bannon has reportedly been meeting with Pastor Mark Harris, who will challenge Pettinger for N.C.’s 9th District seat. Bannon reportedly targeted Pittenger after Karl Rove, a long-time Republican strategist and former George W. Bush adviser, spoke at a rally for Pittenger. Rove has been a vocal critic of Bannon’s push to challenge Republican incumbents.