McCain’s Former Primary Challenger Calls for Him to Resign Following Cancer Diagnosis

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Brain cancer isn’t the only problem John McCain has to deal with. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Politicians from all corners of the ideological spectrum sent Senator John McCain words of encouragement after it was revealed this week that he’d been diagnosed with brain cancer. But one of his rivals dispensed with decorum and said that the senator should vacate his seat immediately.

Arizona republican Dr. Kelli Ward said in an interview with Indiana radio station WOWO that she thinks McCain should step aside.

“I hope that Sen. McCain is going to look long and hard at this, that his family and advisers are going to look at this and they’re going to advise him to step away as quickly as possible,” she said. “So that the business of the country and the business of Arizona being represented at the federal level can move forward.”

In a statement posted to her website, Ward, who is an osteopathic physician, offered her prayers to McCain, but wrote that “the medical reality of his diagnosis is grim” and that “As a doctor, I’ve counseled people in similar situations and these end-of-life choices are never easy. I usually advise terminal patients to reduce stress, relax, and spend time laughing with loved ones.”

Shocking no one, Ward also suggested that she would be a suitable replacement for the 81-year-old McCain.

Ward ran a primary campaign against McCain last year, losing by about 11 points. (She made McCain’s age an issue, predicting that he might die in office.) Ward is currently mounting a primary challenge to Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake, who is up for reelection in 2018. Because of Flake’s longtime criticism of President Trump and possible resistance to voting for Obamacare repeal, the president has considered backing Ward against him, in what would be an extremely unusual move.

Responding to the predictable backlash to her comments, Ward appeared on a local radio show and, in a back and forth with incredulous hosts, clarified that McCain should walk away if he were debilitated. But in keeping with the times, she labeled criticism of her response “fake news” on her Facebook page. Many of her supporters made it clear that they stood by her.

McCain was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain tumor that carries a dire prognosis. If the senator couldn’t finish his term or dies in office, Arizona governor Doug Ducey would appoint a Republican to fill the seat until the next statewide election, in November 2018.

In a lighthearted tweet posted on Thursday, McCain said he will return to the Senate. On Saturday, his daughter Meghan, posted a photo of her and the senator hiking in Arizona:

McCain’s Former Primary Challenger Calls for Him to Resign