Jeff Flake's senate seat up for grabs

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Jay Heiler. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Jay Heiler. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)

The pending open seat in Arizona's senate has potential candidates names popping up.

Jay Heiler, a current member of the Arizona Board of Regents, took his first step this week toward running for Sen. Jeff Flake's seat, making it very clear where he stands on President Donald Trump.

"The president has enunciated an agenda, you're either with it or you're against it, I am with it in every important respect," Heiler said Friday.

Heiler's comments come days after Flake announced he would not seek re-election in a blistering speech in which he urged his fellow Republicans to stand up to Trump.

But so far, the GOP candidates running for the senate nomination are ignoring the call of Arizona's junior senator, going all-in on the Republican president, instead.

"The president's agenda is in the best interest of the country and the best interest of the state," Heiler said.  

In fully embracing the president's policies, Heiler joins former state Sen. Kelli Ward in running a pro-Trump campaign.

Ward, who lost to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., last year, has courted the president's backing and promoted his policies.

So far, a full-throated endorsement has eluded her.

However, Trump stopped just short of supporting Ward over the summer when he tweeted, "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!"

Since then, Ward won the backing of Trump's former chief strategist in the White House, Steve Bannon, who has declared a war on the Republican establishment.

Looking back at Heiler's history, it would seem he is the embodiment the GOP establishment in Arizona.

Although he is not a household name among the average voters, Heiler has been deeply embedded in state politics for decades.

During part of the 1990s, he was the chief of staff to then Republican Gov. Fife Symington.

After leaving the governor's office, Heiler went on to co-found the Great Hearts Academies while building a successful lobbying career.

He is still listed as a lobbyist, according to the Secretary of State's office. Among his current clients is Corizon, a private prison company.

[RELATED: Prison healthcare company contracted with state requests another rate increase]

Despite that resume, Heiler attempted to paint Ward as a typical candidate.

"Sen. Ward is essentially a conventional politician. When I listen to her speak she sounds like a thousand politicians who are already moving around in this system," he said.  

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