What would have been a standard kickoff event for Kelli Ward's senate primary race against Republican Senator Jeff Flake turned into a whole lot of drama in just 24 hours after it was revealed that President Donald Trump's former chief of state Steve Bannon was attending the event at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort.
Here's the latest:
6:40 p.m. Ward is a "Liberty-Loving Conservative"
Ward took the stage and proclaimed she is a liberty-loving conservative and she is ready to join Trump in draining the swamp. She echoed Bannon's speech that she is running for the people here and not the wealthy.
In her 10-minute speech, Ward aligned herself with all of Trump's policies, from repealing the Affordable Care Act to the border wall and his latest tax reform effort.
"Obviously, taking on the establishment on the left and the right is not easy, not cheap, and not always fun — although sometimes it is kind of fun, I admit," Ward said.
Before exiting, she promoted Ingraham's book Billionaire at the Barricades and said she looks forward to finishing it.
Ward says Arizonans have seen the effects of illegal immigration not just on the economy but on American culture. Crowd chants "build the wall." pic.twitter.com/7eCE77Suf9— Lindsay Moore (@_lindsaymoore) October 18, 2017
6:30 p.m. Bannon Rips "Globalist Elite"
Bannon took the stage and immediately ripped on the "globalist elite" and defended Trump. He told the crowd Trump gave up his real estate properties because he had a duty to serve. If given the choice to be governed by the first 100 people at the Ward event and those at Goldman Sachs, Bannon said he would choose the folks at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort.
Bannon: I rather be governed by the first 100 people here than by those at Goldman Sachs— Lindsay Moore (@_lindsaymoore) October 18, 2017
6:15 p.m.: "Melt the Snowflake"
Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham took the stage and joked that Flake and Senator John McCain couldn't make it because they were busy supporting Democratic values instead. Ingraham immediately launched into dissing Flake telling the crowd, "let's melt the snowflake" and ragging on Flake's book.
Ingraham said it's important to judge candidates by who is in their company and even more important to judge who is against them. She named antifa and the liberal media as some worthy enemies. "I think we're doing pretty good," she said after the crowd turned around to face the media and boo.
Only five minutes in and Ingraham roasts the 'Democratic media.' The audience turned around to look at us and boo. I smiled.— Lindsay Moore (@_lindsaymoore) October 18, 2017
6:00 p.m.: "No One Took a Knee"
The ballroom fills up, but is definitely not at capacity. What they lack in bodies, they make up in enthusiasm. The crowd cheers loudly for former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, who notes that "no one took a knee" during the Star-Spangled Banner or Pledge of Allegiance.
4:30 p.m.: Close to Capacity
The Ward campaign's press assistant Zachery Henry totals the head count of supporters at 841, which is dangerously close to capacity. The team considers opening the ballroom to accommodate more.
12:55 p.m.: Does Doctor Have Skeletons?
Two former Breitbart reporters and Ward campaign employees started making noise on Twitter alluding that their former boss may have some skeletons in the closet.
Oh... I see @kelliwardaz is having a "campaign kickoff" today. I've got some interesting stories that people should probably be aware of.— Dustin Stockton (@DustinStockton) October 17, 2017
Or, at the very least, Ward is not practicing what she preaches.
Being a Senator is more than just having the right ideas, you have to be able to reject the swamp.... it's here that— Dustin Stockton (@DustinStockton) October 17, 2017
Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, Ward's former chief strategist and press secretary respectively, drafted a full statement apologizing for legitimizing Ward as a candidate and propping up her campaign.
Stockton and Lawrence described the Ward campaign as a disaster but also an opportunity to prove their skills in campaign management. However, their pet project seems to have disappointed them.
"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," the statement read.
The statement promises to make America First activists proud and ominously ends with a "stay tuned."
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Stockton and Lawrence have not responded to the New Times request for comment at this time.
Monday afternoon: Cat Out of the Bag
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that former White House Chief Strategist and far-right news website Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon will be at Ward's event in Scottsdale.
In more senate anti-establishment news, Laura Ingraham invited Bannon to a Kelli Ward campaign event out West and he plans to attend.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 16, 2017