February 15th, 2010
03:08 PM ET
13 years ago

McCain challenger launches bid to unseat Arizona senator

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/23/art.hayworth.gi.jpg caption="Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth will formally launch his campaign on Monday."]
(CNN) - The Republican Party's most recent presidential nominee has earned a primary challenge from the right on President's Day.

J.D. Hayworth, a former Arizona congressman and radio host, formally announced Monday that's he's challenging Republican John McCain for his U.S. Senate seat.

"You could say they are two John McCains. The one who campaigns like a conservative and the one who legislates like a liberal," said Hayworth at a news conference at his new campaign office in Phoenix.

Hayworth also announced Monday that another conservative candidate who was challenging McCain dropped out of the race and endorsed the former congressman. Hayworth's event kicked off what is scheduled to be a three-day, 10-stop campaign swing through the state.

Hayworth, who served for six terms in the House before losing his 2006 re-election bid, stepped down last month as host of his conservative talk radio program in Phoenix. While he says he respects McCain's service, he says McCain's been in Washington too long and isn't conservative enough.

"We all love and think the world of John and John's place in history is secure," the 51-year old Hayworth told CNN correspondent Casey Wian on Friday. "But John no longer represents the common sense conservative philosophy that most Arizonans share."

McCain, 73, is running for a fifth term in the Senate. The 2008 GOP presidential nominee served six years in the House before winning election to the Senate in 1986. McCain hasn't faced a difficult re-election since 1992.

Hayworth's Web page bills him as "The Consistent Conservative," challenging McCain on health care reform, the national debt and illegal immigration. And a Hayworth press release from Friday mentions that McCain "voted for the massive bank bailout bill in 2008, which included $150 billion in earmarks."

McCain, meanwhile, is in the middle of an eight-day campaign swing through the state.

Asked by a reporter if Hayworth was getting some grassroots conservative support, McCain said "I don't know what kind of support that Mr. Hayworth has. I haven't seen much so far, but maybe I missed it. And the voters in his district threw him out in 2006, in a heavy Republican district."

At a campaign event Monday in Tempe, Arizona, where he received the official backing of 31 mayors from across the state, McCain said "I intend to go out there and earn every single vote."

McCain also told CNN that "I'm tenacious, I fight and I love a good campaign."

Over the past few weeks, McCain has announced endorsements from top conservatives like Dick Armey of FreedomWorks and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. Last month, McCain's 2008 running mate, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, announced that she would travel to Arizona to campaign with McCain in late March. Palin's popularity with voters on the right could help McCain with some Republican voters who question his commitment to conservative values and goals.

Sen. Scott Brown, whose victory in last month's special senate election in Massachusetts energized the GOP, has also said he'll stump with McCain early next month. And Arizona's Republican congressional delegation announced Wednesday that it will support the four-term senator.

"I think it's safe to say that McCain, coming out of the presidential race, was concerned about his possible re-election. I think he was expecting a challenge from the right," said Dan Nowicki, political reporter for the Arizona Republic.

McCain's was already facing a primary challenge from Chris Simcox, a co-founder of the Minuteman movement. Simcox announced his candidacy last April and then resigned from the volunteer organization, which tries to prevent illegal crossings of the U.S. border. McCain's past support of immigration reform legislation in Congress nearly derailed his presidential bid two years ago.

But Hayworth announced Monday that Simcox ended his bid for the GOP senate nomination, and endorsed Hayworth. Simcox's withdrawal could help Hayworth consolidate support on the right.

"When J.D. got into this race I thought long and hard about the decision I had to make, and it became obvious to me that the right thing to do was to remember the mission: Elect a consistent conservative to the United State Senate," said Simcox. "My friends, that is exactly what we are here to do. So it is with great pleasure that I stand with J.D. Hayworth and endorse his campaign."

Businessman Jim Deakin is also challenging McCain. The primary election is slated for August 24.

- CNN's Peter Hamby, Casey Wian and Chuck Conder contributed to this report.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Updated: 3:08 p.m.

Filed under: 2010 • Arizona • J.D. Hayworth • John McCain
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Patrick

    McCain is one of the all-time great senators. America can't afford to lose him. If anything he has become much more conservative over the last 5 years. I don't want him to run anymore to the right. Stay true to yourself McCain and you'll be fine. Please don't pander to any conservative or liberal special interest groups.

    February 15, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. Jerry

    We need new blood in Congress. Not only Arizona, we need it everywhere.

    February 15, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. Anon

    John McCain is a completely clueless moron. I live in Arizona and he DOES NOT represent me or my views. I don't care about this other repub, I and most of the people I know will be voting DEMOCRAT!!!

    February 15, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. Jerry

    I voted for McCain as president because the alternative was not good as you know already. Clearly at age seventy three he should retire.

    February 15, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. Judy Blue

    McCain gone bye-bye

    February 15, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Hayworth is as crooked as John McCain, Arizona deserves better. Both McCain and Hayworth couldn't win if it depended on the citizens of Phoenix, they both campaign in the retired wealthy suburban areas.

    February 15, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    No tears for McCain. His political legacy will be tarnished by the extremely poor choice in running mate, Sarah Palin.

    February 15, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. Steve, NY

    What hurt McCain is picking the kiss of death "Palin" and not selecting the most popular Romney for VP.
    McCain lost his political logic someplace along the line. He's getting to old and can't think straight.
    People are fed up with illegal immigrants and McCain is for amenesty. The only thing that helped McCain is the "surge". Well the surge is old news and McCain has nothing positive to go on in the future.
    I feel sorry for McCain but he has nothing to offer anymore for the people. He's basically out of touch with people just like Obama is. We need fresh young honest canditades with new proggresive ideas.
    The king of no earmarks became the king of earmarks when he voted for the bailout containing 150 billion dollars of earmarks. That's 150 billion with a "b". He's still insists that he's against earmarks. Give me a break.
    People made a big mistake when they voted for McCain instead of Romney in the primaries. The press didn't help either. Obama would have lost the election against Romney.
    Can't change history.

    February 15, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  9. Norm

    We need to get these old senile war hawks out of office and let the next generation get in there. I hope he wins.

    February 15, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. abdul

    They both are corrupt. am just curious why there is not a single domocrat or independent on eht ticket,
    few facts to remember , arizona is sure not the conservative arizona most people think it is , there is a huge number of independents and democrats for other states moved to arizona the last few years, neither these choices are good for arizona nor the nation , can someone steps up and say hi
    if not why dont you elect abdul , am independent , pot smoker , and really true to my values guy rights should be preserved , abortions for the mothers to decided , immigrants should be given the legal status,then closed the broders , they are leaving anyways now, so dont used that song anymore , for jobs , i guess , i will get with you on that with a good plan with i get my comittee going , vote abdul , enough is anough ....;0

    February 15, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Content

    I think McCain is one of the few sensible Republicans.

    February 15, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Tommy Young

    McCain has been in office too long. Three terms is plenty.

    February 15, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Just what the Country needs ... a goose-stepping, blithering far-right radio talk-show host to bring even more bitter partisanship to the currently non-functioning Senate! If he's so good ... why didn't he get re-elected when he held public office previously?

    February 15, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Dixie Stover

    It seems that Arizona will have a choice between bad and worse.

    February 15, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. abdul

    but then if i have a choice , really the last choice , i might vote for John , if i was forced to vote , hayworth on his talk shows is very hatefull , here is what they think and say
    latinos should get deported, all of them , legal or not , any jose or maria should leave
    the blacks are guilty , and are using the system , they dont work , they use tax money for a living
    all muslims are terrorists...........
    time for the conservatives( only with us) to get real , or move to alaska to be close to sarah , may there they can create their own conservative values and states , where no blacks , no hispanics , no muslims

    February 15, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. Sapphire33

    I hope McCain loses. Blame him for bring craziness into the political arena in the form of Sarah Palin.

    February 15, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. andy

    Good ,says McCain is not conservative enough,Great I welcome a conservative GOP.Long Live the GOP.Out with the party of NO.NO jobs NO economic improvement NO hope NO plan NO truth NO change.GOP and November "Yes We Can" run the Dems out the party of NO.

    February 15, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. scrambledmind

    please...please....PLEASE, Conservatives and Republicans....KEEP THAT BAFOON JD OUT OF THE SENATE....he is one of the reasons i left the Republican Party......i haven't a clue McCai as who should replace Senn....maybe a !

    February 15, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  19. Gilliard

    Good. Get rid of that old prickly pear.

    February 15, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. RTB

    Anyone with a pulse would be a better Senator than Windbag McCain who proved just how inept he is by giving us The Alaskan Air Head and a series of other blunders in his unbelievably long and questionable career.

    Don't forget the Keating Five Savings and Loan Scam that McCain was in the middle of.

    February 15, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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