PHOENIX (AP) — Two-time U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward said Monday she'll seek the top post in the Arizona Republican Party and likely forego any effort to seek the late Sen. John McCain's seat in 2020.
Ward said she believes her two Senate runs and background in the state Senate make her a solid candidate to shore up the party as Arizona becomes a battleground state.
"I think that it's time for a new strategy, it's time for a new leader, it's time for the old guard to be moved out and people who embrace the entire party to move in," Ward said.
Ward would likely face current chairman Jonathan Lines in a scheduled Jan. 26 election by party committee members. Party spokesman Robert Maxwell said Lines is expected to seek a second term, but had no further comment Monday on Ward's announcement.
The state party has been fractured for years between moderates who embrace business-friendly strategies and avoid hot-button social issues and a more conservative wing that has embraced the tea party and President Donald Trump's initiatives. McCain, who died last summer, was a frequent target of those conservative party activists, and Ward challenged him in the 2016 primary but lost by 11 percentage points. She ran again for Sen. Jeff Flake's seat this year, but lost in a three-way primary won by Rep. Martha McSally.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in the general election.
Despite her campaign losses, Ward said those two statewide efforts have given her insight into what Republican voters want and an understanding of the issues that others don't have.
The physician from Lake Havasu City said she'll focus on changing GOP messaging on education and health care that she says has been poorly managed. She said she supports school choice, and public school teachers, but that GOP message hasn't resonated. The same is true with health care.
"I think that as the GOP chairperson I can help us at the state level, at the local level and at the national level to make sure that our messaging and our strategy are appropriate so that we take the state from the purple that's it's become under the last two GOP leaders and become strongly right once again," she said.