Sharpe to the Point: Flake, Act II

Jim SharpeNovember 1, 2018
Share This

A look at Jeff Flake’s second act in politics.

No moment in my life more permanently defined me as a backwoods boy from Page, Arizona, than the day I took my first job outside the state.

Arriving in the late evening, circa 1985, I beheld with pure wonderment the mighty media capital of Spokane, Washington – driving through downtown, craning my neck to peer up through my windshield. The tallest structure in town wasn’t the water tower! And the population was 250,000! Amazing!

I get that same rush anytime someone of import tells me that Arizona is on the national stage. “Golly!” I holler through the hay straw hanging from my teeth. “You mean little ol’ us here in Arizona?!”

Meet The Press host Chuck Todd told me on the radio the other day that Arizona is poised to become the third most important swing state in the country – after Florida and Ohio. I don’t think the Democrats will turn Arizona blue this November (maybe mauve-ish?), but Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema seems to have a legitimate shot to be the first Democrat in 30 years to be elected U.S. Senator from Arizona.

Todd also told me that he believes the only path for the Democrats to capture the Senate is if Sinema wins her race against Republican Congresswoman – and former airborne tank-killer – Martha McSally. That definitely puts us on the national stage.

But be careful what you wish for. This contest has become the most expensive political race Arizona has ever seen, and all that money being poured into our state means you can’t turn on your TV without seeing Sinema in a pink tutu, or McSally grimacing during a tough line of civil-rights questioning.

Some people would say it’s about time we’re focusing solely on women. (Editor’s note: See our profile of the candidates on page 106.) And that has me a little worried about a man. The guy who’s moving to the political dustbin: Current Senator Jeff Flake. What will become of the Flakester?!

It was a big deal when Flake took to the Senate floor to explain why he wouldn’t be seeking re-election after serving just one term. He made it sound like a dilemma: either continue to be a party to the party of President Donald Trump, or climb to higher moral ground by exiting the Senate. The truth is: Voters were already making the decision for him.

He was hovering around a 20 percent approval rating among Republicans when he called it quits. That number put him in danger of not even making it out of the primary election if another Republican smelled blood in the water.

Personally, I like Flake, and I think he’s achieved what so many try to do – seize the high ground – when he calls out the president for oafish behavior and not reflecting conservative principles. So I hope the soon-to-be-former senator lands on his feet.

Considering his good looks, his intellect and his ability to string coherent sentences together, there’s a good chance he’ll end up as a pundit on one of the cable channels. But if that doesn’t work out, he does have some other options.

How about a career as a shirtless cargo shorts model? Shirtless, because for a guy who doesn’t drink, he’s always carrying a six-pack. (You saw the picture on the deserted island, right?) And cargo shorts because he’s a dad in his 50s, so he’s only legally allowed to wear shorts with numerous giant pockets.

Or he could serve as the founding dean of the Trump Studies Department at Brigham Young University. After all, Flake pioneered how to be a Republican Trump critic. Walking a fine line between calling out The Donald on The Ego while maintaining a voting record that mirrors the president’s wishes the vast majority of the time is an art form.

This is all coming from a guy who thought Spokane was a good move, so take it with many grains of salt. But even if Flake decides to accept all of my career advice, I think he’ll eventually give up being a shirtless professor – with lots of room for snacks in his shorts – and attempt a run at the U.S. presidency. His stand during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings suggests he might do exactly that, and he could go down in history not only as a great president – but also as the man who shined a light on the path the GOP needs to take.

Heck, he could light the way using just those amazing teeth.

Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit to find more information about his on-air work.

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.