KINGMAN - Sen. John McCain has been uncharacteristically quiet regarding state Sen. Kelli Ward's now-official challenge to his Senate seat in the 2016 Republican primary.
But now that the conservative Lake Havasu City Republican has formally announced her candidacy, the gloves have been pulled off in the McCain camp.
"Sen. Ward's record of bizarre statements and questionable judgment will be a key concern for Arizona voters over the next year," said Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman.
Rogers cited last summer's meeting in Kingman regarding people concerned with so-called chemtrails, which they believe are a government conspiracy to poison citizens through the use of U.S. aircraft.
To be fair, Ward last year said she scheduled the chemtrail meeting because a number of Mohave County residents believe the conspiracy is not a theory, but a fact.
While she said at the time she didn't believe the government was using chemtrails, she has since said she hasn't made up her mind.
In any event, the meeting that was held at the Mohave County Supervisors auditorium has plagued Ward since she announced she might run last April.
Rogers was also critical of Ward's vocal support of racist comments Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling made last year.
McCain likely has the financial edge.
While Ward's camp has not released figures, Rogers said McCain raised $1.4 million in the second quarter, April 1 to June 30, bringing his total to $4.5 million cash on hand.
"Arizonans know that John McCain will never stop fighting for Arizona and America, as he has his entire adult life, both in uniform and in Congress," said Rogers in an email. "Senator McCain looks forward to this campaign, and to discussing his strong record of protecting America's national security, standing up for veterans, and growing Arizona's economy."
Rogers also said the state's Republicans are "worried" about Ward's "strange statements" and that they are "not confident that she has the right values and that she will stick to her principles."
When asked why it took McCain so long to comment on Ward's potential challenge and her repeated attacks on his record, Rogers said it makes "little sense to respond to someone who wasn't even a declared candidate."