February 15th, 2010
03:08 PM ET
12 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 "But John no longer represents the common sense conservative philosophy that most Arizonans share."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. D.U.T.C.H.

    As much as I want to see McCain out of office, I sure don't want this guy Hayworth to be his replacement. He looks like an extreme right winger.

    February 15, 2010 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    Bring in Failin Palin, fat pill popper and the rest of the Tea Baggers and watch your candidacy flop like a lead balloon

    February 15, 2010 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  3. mike

    now its time to unseat McCain and get a more conservative in wait
    Sarah Palin indorse McCain Miss teabagger this cannot be what
    happen to being to liberal I guess the teabaggers are a bunch of

    February 15, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  4. chaser

    CNN, the 24/7 Palin network.

    February 15, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  5. Papasan

    Hayworth will turn into the next Five Term seeking boob that does absolutely nothing for Arizona. What do Arizonans have to do to get some real representation in Washington, resurrect Goldwater?

    February 15, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    More to the right of McCain, is bad for the country. McCain is quite conservative enough.

    February 15, 2010 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. CR

    The term "conservative" has become synonymous with "wingnut". They just don't make sense. Looney ranting, appeals to selfishness, and worse.

    February 15, 2010 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  8. John

    He needs to be replaced with a real conservative not a progressive polititian.I will donate to his opponent.

    February 15, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  9. HBO

    This is great news!

    I hope he beats McCain decisively... then the old man can enjoy his $100,000,000 and 11 houses or so... as he fades off into the sunset.


    February 15, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  10. Vietnam Combat Vet, Ohio

    Get rid of one jerk and replace him with another? Way to go GOP. Put a Dem in!!!

    February 15, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Diane Maddox

    It's time for a change in the senate regarding both of the Arizona seats.
    Look at the voting record of both to see how low our state ranks in education.

    February 15, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  12. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    McCain is too OLD... OUT WITH THE OLD

    February 15, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  13. The Spin Starts with CNN

    This should be a wake up for all the democrats as well. The TEA Party is for real!

    I hope CNN and other stations continue to minimize and mock the Tea Party movement. That fuels them even more!

    February 15, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  14. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    Unfortunately, Senator McCain had ignored his good chance of working on a bipartisan proposal with President Obama on health care reform. I am sure he would have done it, had Senator Kennedy been alive and well.

    I am amazed at those people that claimed status quo is good enough for them, why change? The problem is that status quo does not exist. The health care costs spiral up continuously, while our economic outlook spirals downward. Our economy cannot sustain spending 16%+ of our GDP on health care. In this fiscal conservative's view, more workers are spending 25% of their salary on health care, and as a nation, we will spend 25% of our GDP on health care and leave little for everything else we desperately need to stay competitive. All other industrial countries have shown us Universal Health Care is the way to save health care costs and cover everyone. Why do we have to reinvent the wheels?

    It may be time for a new person to do the job, if Senator McCain is becoming the status quo.

    February 15, 2010 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Vote Congress out, “you are fired” if they are in. Vote them out this fall no matter what party they belong to, and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.
    John McCain is no different, he has been in and part of the problem of our federal Government. We demand a return to representation of the People, NOT the Special Interests.

    February 15, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  16. Elizabeth tallahassee,fl

    time to GO McCain

    February 15, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  17. TCM

    If a true conservative is running, McCain will lose. While I respect his service to the country, McCain's too far to the center...and liberals exploit that. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me that if the demoliberals some how gain momentum, he'd jump parties. What America is craving right now is a return to it's founding roots; a return to true conservatism. Liberalism is nothing more than a short term fad; like a pet rock.

    February 15, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  18. Ben in Texas

    So, "compassionate conservative" has given way to "consistent conservative". Bush was neither "compassionate" nor "conservative", and my guess is that Hayworth will be just as false to his self description.

    We will be able to tell right away, if he gets elected. If he turns down the socialized platinum health care coverage that senators get in favor of buying his own coverage or paying out-of-pocket, we will know that he is being consistent with his political views.

    February 15, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  19. Chris

    Oh great, just what we need, another far right Neo-Con attacking another on the Right for "not being Conservative enough." The Conservative moment in this country is driving itself futher and further to the fringes and extremism. Why don't the Republicans just rename themselves the Fascists and be done with it.

    February 15, 2010 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  20. Tom, Bradenton,FL

    It is time to replace all these old Senators and bring in new flesh.

    February 15, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. Mark in Atlanta

    I certainly wouldn't shed any tears over McCain getting beat. I've generally had a pretty high opinion of him in the past, but this year he could have done the nation a huge service by being a real partner to Obama (meaning actually being a vooice for a loyal opposition engaged in a real bipartisan dialogue) but instead he joined the other congessional republicans in their petulant, me-first hissy fit. The tea bagger right will never be more than a noisey fringe, but they will cause trouble for serious mainstream republicans for a while longer.

    February 15, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  22. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Wow batman,a grocery bag would fit over this tea party morons head perfectly.Are they growing these morons in the dessert?McCain,Kyl,now this corporate scumbag?

    February 15, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  23. crispy

    It will be interesting to see whether a self-proclaimed "more partisan" candidate will garner more support than one who is perceived as more moderate. This is a good barometer of which way the population is leaning in general.

    February 15, 2010 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  24. bmw

    McCain has tried to walk on both sides of the fence for too long – packaging himself as a moderate and a maverick while consistently voting with the extreme right wing and serving as a megaphone for their propaganda.

    What goes around comes around.

    February 15, 2010 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  25. Stop the Nonsense

    There is a real chance McCain could lose his seat. Despite the cries by so many in these discussion groups, the real dissmay is incumbancy, not just Democrats.
    McCain is a fair and honest man and it would be a ashame to lose this particular man.

    February 15, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
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