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Palin endorses Arizona Flake for Senate over tea party challenger

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Stephen Nowers photo

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hasn't been invited to the 2012 Republican National Convention yet (though a look-a-like reportedly has), and pundits and political junkies don't hang on her every Facebook note or tweet as much as they used to. But don't think she's taking it easy despite the spotlight's dimmer glare. She's still dishing out endorsements for candidates in races around the country.

Palin, whose 'flakiness' was examined in depth during the 2010 election cycle, put her weight behind Jeff Flake, a six-term U.S. representative, and Arizona Republican U.S. Senate primary candidate.Flake's nearest challenger, wealthy Mesa businessman Wil Cardon, is favored by Arizonans with tea party or anti-establishment leanings.

This isn't the first time Palin, a tea party favorite, has lent support to a candidate perceived as an establishment choice. She supported Utah's long-time Sen. Orrin Hatch in a heated primary race with an anti-establishment candidate, whom Hatch eventually bested in June.

But Flake's conservative credentials are well-established, Palin argues in her letter of support:

Credited by many as the leading anti-earmark crusader in the House, Jeff has fought hard against pork barrel spending – often times casting one of the few GOP "no" votes on bloated spending measures. He’s not afraid to "go rogue" against his own party and its leadership; and even though he has sometimes suffered the consequences from GOP leaders for failing to toe the party line, yet he continues to fight for what is right.

I’ve spoken often about the need for sudden and relentless reform of government. Jeff is just the sort of "relentless reformer" we need in the Senate. He will bring his fight against our crippling debt, reckless spending, and wasteful earmarks to the Senate. Watch this video at www.mrflaketakesonwashington.com, and you’ll see why I am joining with Senators McCain & Kyl to support Jeff Flake for U.S. Senate.

Cardon's campaign responded by characterizing Palin's endorsement as more proof that the political establishment is looking to protect its own.

Alyssa Pivirotto, Cardon’s campaign spokeswoman, on Monday said, “Today’s endorsement from Sarah Palin, on the heels of her former running mate John McCain, is not a surprise but rather further proof of politicians rallying around their friend, career politician Jeff Flake, in an attempt to help him keep his job. Arizona voters know business as usual has not worked and will not be fooled by political insiders sticking together.”

Richard Carmona, the likely Democratic candidate, and his campaign echoed that sentiment and took the pre-primary attack on Flake a bit farther.

Carmona campaign spokesman Andy Barr said on Monday, “This endorsement shows Congressman Flake is hitting the panic button in a primary he used to lead by 50 points. Sarah Palin once railed against the good old boy network in Washington — and yet she just endorsed a career politician and lobbyist who ‘lied’ about his term limits pledge, has used campaign contributions to pay himself $90,000 and was a registered foreign agent for a uranium mine partially owned by Iran.”