Jeffry Lane Flake (born December 31, 1962) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who since 2013 has served as the Junior United States Senator from Arizona alongside former 2008 presidential nominee John McCain.
Born in Snowflake, Arizona, Flake is a graduate of Brigham Young University and was a Mormon missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to South Africa before working in public affairs, serving as Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Namibia and Executive Director of the Goldwater Institute. Flake was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Arizona in 2000 for the state's Arizona's 1st congressional district. He was redistricted to the Arizona's 6th congressional district during his first term and was re-elected six times, serving from 2001 to 2013 and assigned to the Committee on Appropriations.
Flake declined to seek re-election to the House in 2012, instead running for the U.S. Senate. He defeated three challengers in the Republican primary and, after a close race, beat Democrat Richard Carmona, the former Surgeon General of the United States, in the general election by 49.2% to 46.2%. Flake was sworn-in in January 2013 and serves on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Special Committee on Aging.
Flake was born in Snowflake, Arizona, the son of Nerita (née Hock) and Dean Maeser Flake. His birth town was named in part for his great-great-grandfather, Mormon pioneer William J. Flake. Flake obtained a B.A. in International Relations and an M.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University. He took a two-year leave of absence to serve as a volunteer Mormon missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Africa in the early 1980s and speaks Afrikaans. He worked in the public affairs sector after college and served as Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Namibia and Executive Director of the Goldwater Institute before entering the House of Representatives. He opposed economic sanctions on South Africa in the 1980s, arguing that sanctions would harm the black population who were already suffering under Apartheid policies.
Flake was first elected to what was then Arizona's 1st congressional district in 2000, after Republican incumbent Matt Salmon stepped down to honor a self-imposed term limit. The district, which included most of the East Valley, was then renumbered to the 6th district as Arizona gained two Congressional seats because of the results of the 2000 census. Flake easily defeated his primary challenger.
In his campaign in 2000, Flake had pledged to serve no more than three terms in Congress which would see him serve no later than January 2007. Shortly after being elected for a third time, Flake announced in early 2005 that he had changed his mind on pledging term limits and was planning to run for re-election in 2006. "It was a mistake to limit my own terms," Flake said.
In that same election, three out of five mayors in his home district opposed his re-election because, according to Flake, he did not "bring pork barrel spending" to the mayors' cities. In 2006, several Democrats had announced their intention to run for the seat; however, only one met the June filing deadline, and that particular filing was rejected due to an insufficient number of nominating signatures. "I did expect to have a primary opponent. I deserve one," Flake said, referring to the term-limit pledge which he had broken. "By all rights, I ought to have an opponent. I just got lucky, I guess."
In February 2011, Flake announced that he was running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl in 2012. Flake easily won the Republican nomination against real estate businessman Wil Cardon. He faced former surgeon general Richard Carmona, who sought office for the first time in the general election. In May 2012, Flake led Carmona by 13 points in the polls. In an October 2012 poll by Public Policy Polling, Flake was trailing Carmona by two points. After the race tightened, the Wall Street Journal criticized a controversial Flake ad that accused Carmona of having "issues with anger, with ethics, and with women." Flake was endorsed by the Casa Grande Dispatch, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and the Club for Growth. Flake defeated Democratic Richard Carmona 49–46% on November 6, 2012. He won mainly on the strength of carrying Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and 60 percent of the state's population, by 77,200 votes, more than the overall margin of 67,900 votes. He also benefited from Mitt Romney carrying the state by 10 points in the presidential election.
Flake replaced retiring Republican U.S. Senator Jon Kyl on January 3, 2013.
Flake was on the field during practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game when the Congressional baseball shooting happened on June 14, 2017. He said the attendees were like "sitting ducks" and that it was likely that the Capitol Police saved their lives.
All of a sudden, we heard a very loud shot. Everybody thought 'sounds like a gun'. The gunman was over by the third base dugout, with a clear view of the field and everybody on it. A lot of us dove into the dugout and tried to get as many as we could, but at that point, there was firing behind us from the security detail, the Capitol Police, and I started yelling back, 'are you friendly?' – making sure that it was our guy, because we didn't know if there were other shooters that had us surrounded, and we're coming into the dugout. —Sen. Jeff Flake
Former President Obama called Flake that morning to extend his best wishes and prayers for the victims. Flake had flown with Obama from Washington, D.C. to Arizona in 2011 after the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Flake used his experience surviving in the wild for six days with a Democratic Senator to develop an idea to end partisan gridlock in Washington. In 2014, Flake and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) were featured on a Discovery Channel reality TV show, Rival Survival, where the two stayed on a small Micronesian island for six days. Flake later joked during a speech at the National Press Club that sending both Senate leaders (Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid [D-NV] and Republican Mitch McConnell [R-KY]) to a remote island together might reduce partisanship and allow more legislation to move forward.
Flake is a fiscal conservative. He is a critic of government waste and advocates reducing federal spending. He was described by columnist Robert Novak as an "insistent reformer". He is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and one of eight House members to receive a 100% approval rating from the American Conservative Union. In 2008, Flake voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Flake is "known for his ardent opposition to earmarks." He has been called an "anti-earmark crusader," and frequently challenges earmarks proposed by other members of Congress. Since May 2006, he has become prominent with the "Flake Hour," a tradition at the end of spending bill debates in which he asks earmark sponsors to come to the house floor and justify why taxpayers should pay for their "pet projects." He is credited with prompting House rule changes to require earmark sponsors to identify themselves.
Until September 2010, Flake issued a press release listing an "egregious earmark of the week" every Friday. Usually the earmark will be followed by Flake making a humorous comment; as an example, Rep. Flake once said of Congressman Jose Serrano's $150,000 earmark to fix plumbing in Italian restaurants, "I would argue this is one cannoli the taxpayer doesn't want to take a bite of." The "earmark of the week" releases were ended and replaced with the "So Just How Broke Are We?" series of releases. In March 2010, the House Appropriations Committee implemented rules to ban earmarks to for-profit corporations, a change Flake supported. "This is the best day we've had in a while," he said to the New York Times, which reported that approximately 1,000 such earmarks were authorized in the previous year, worth $1.7 billion.
In 2012, it was reported that Flake had on at least five occasions voted against legislation intended to prevent natural disasters and provide aid to those harmed by natural disasters. In 2005, Flake was only one of eleven House representatives to vote against a bill providing supplemental emergency funds to handle damage from Hurricane Katrina.
On December 2, 2014, the Senate passed the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act. The bill would put an end to a fight over water rights in the Bill Williams River Watershed in Arizona. Flake introduced the Senate version of the bill along with Senator John McCain. The bill also helps the Hualapai Native American tribe, which uses water from the watershed. If the bill is signed by President Obama, it would put a limit on the amount of water that a local mining company can use, and it would give legal recognition to the tribe's rights to the water source. At a House hearing on the bill in September 2014, in which both the Hualapai Tribe and Freeport Minerals company testified, both the tribe and the company agreed that the bill would provide each, and other interests, with benefits. The settlement would guarantee water rights for the tribe; provide water for Freeport's mine in Bagdad, Arizona; and give the state of Arizona rights to a property area that would be used for a conservation program for several species. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce supported the legislation, saying, "The settlement of water rights claims is a priority in our state in order to provide clarity and long-term certainty to all water users across Arizona."
In 2014, the EPA announced that it would make some changes to federal regulation of water. Two different cases that went before the Supreme Court resulted in the court ordering the EPA to specify which waterways in the U.S. are considered protected by the Clean Water Act. Flake and McCain sent a letter to the head of the EPA, citing a number of reasons why the regulation would hurt Arizona. One of the senators' concerns was about waterways that only flow in certain parts of the year. Flake and McCain believe that if the EPA includes those types of waterways in the new regulations, the regulations would have a negative effect on Arizona's agriculture industry. One of the reasons the EPA is using in deciding which waterways will fall under the new regulation is by concluding whether pollution in waterways will negatively affect other waters downstream. Flake and McCain asserted in their letter that little proof existed to back up such a conclusion, but the EPA responded by saying that the proposed regulation was carefully examined and was made with bipartisan input. Additionally, Flake and McCain wrote that the new changes could make it harder for Arizona firefighters to fight wildfires.
Flake advocated against the rule for two primary reasons. First, Flake wrote that the EPA proposed rule did not make a distinction between waterways that flow all year or just part of the year. Flake cited that 94 percent of Arizona's waterways do not flow continuously year-round, and because of that, the lack of distinction in the rule would affect most of Arizona's waterways. Second, Flake argued that the scientific evidence used by the EPA to back up the rule was "anything but settled." Flake and McCain warned the EPA administrator about their concerns earlier in the year, via a letter sent on May 6, 2014. An editorial published by the Arizona Republic said that the EPA rule would have the effect of requiring the CAP Canal to treat drinking water twice, which would increase costs to Arizona residents. The editorial claims that the canal, and all water sources that go to people's homes, already has to meet Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.
Flake voted in favor of the Iraq Resolution (authorizing the Iraq War) in the House of Representatives in October 2002. In a debate on the House floor on the authorization of force (October 8, 2002), Flake said, "We ought to let history be our guide here. But the most recent history in this case that we ought to look at is the vote that took place in this Chamber 12 years ago. During that time, we faced a very similar decision. Should we thwart Saddam Hussein in his attempt to go beyond his boundaries or should we appease him? Fortunately, the majority of this body and the other body agreed we ought to thwart him; and I think we can all agree that, had we not done so, that the biological and chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein possesses would be added to nuclear weapons which he would certainly possess today had he not been thwarted at that time. We are in this position today, I would submit, because we have no other choice. This is our only reasonable option. War will no doubt come at great cost. When we visit the war memorials, we see that cost, but the cost of appeasement is far greater. I commend the House leadership for bringing this resolution forward and for shepherding it through process. I especially commend our President who so forcefully pushed for this resolution and who has so deliberately pushed for this resolution. I urge support for the resolution."
After the 2006 election in which Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives largely due to the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, Flake changed his position on the Iraq War to one of cautious opposition, including voting against appropriations. At a 2008 congressional hearing featuring General David Petraeus, Flake said, "I still have a hard time seeing the big picture and what constitutes success [in Iraq]. That's not just one side of the aisle with those kind of concerns. Many on this side of the aisle have that as well."
Flake supported President Barack Obama's 2014 decision to begin the process of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba, despite opposition to the policy change from other Republican senators. Flake joined Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Patrick Leahy on a trip to Cuba to return Alan Gross to the United States. Gross, an American aid worker, had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years, but was released as part of the agreement between Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro. Flake believes that the United States embargo against Cuba is flawed, stating, "The policy that we've had in place for the past 50 years has done more in my view … to keep the Castro regimes in power than anything we could've done." Flake has traveled to Cuba nine times and supports loosening restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba.
During the 2005 debate on renewal of the expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act, Jeff Flake successfully submitted several amendments to the bill in the House of Representatives. One required the FBI director to personally sign off on any request for library and bookstore records before applying to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but it was altered in the United States Senate version of the bill. Two of his amendments were signed into law and they subjected any National Security Letter and its gag order to a judicial challenge by the recipient, and narrowed the scope of "Sneak and Peek" warrants to have definite time limits on their duration and extensions before they need to notify the target of the investigation. Before that, "Sneak and Peek" warrants could be extended by the standard of not "unduly delaying trial" without any defined time limitation. This amended bill was titled the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and it was signed into law on March 9, 2006. This bill also required three Inspector General investigations that led to the discovery of exigent letters and National Security Letter abuses. On February 8, 2011, Flake voted to renew key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The vote failed. On February 10, 2011, Flake again voted to renew key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. This vote succeeded.
Although he voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2007, which would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, Flake said he had concerns with the 2013 version, which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. However, when the vote occurred on November 7, Flake cast his vote in favor of the 2013 version of ENDA.
On April 17, 2013, Flake joined 45 other senators in voting against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, which would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales. Following the vote, Flake was criticized for changing his position on background checks. Just days before the vote, he had sent the mother of one of the Colorado theater shooting victims a hand-written letter stating that "strengthening background checks is something we agree on." In response to a question asking whether he was worried about potential political consequences vowed by gun-control groups, Flake replied, "That's the beauty of a 6-year term. I truly want to do something on this, but what has been a little upsetting is to hear people try to maintain that we were just caving to pressure, discounting any issues that we had with the legislation, with the language. That's just not right." Following his no vote, Flake's approval rating fell from 45–43% to 32–51% according to one poll, making him the most unpopular senator in America as of April 2013.
In March 2013, he joined with Senators Lindsey Graham, Mark Begich and Mark Pryor in introducing a bill that would close a loophole by flagging individuals who attempt to buy guns who have used an insanity defense, were ruled dangerous by a court, or had been committed by a court to mental health treatment.
In 2013, Flake was a member of the "Gang of Eight"—a bipartisan group of eight senators (four Democrats and four Republicans)—who sponsored an immigration overhaul bill. Flake said of the group: "Pretty quickly we determined that everybody around that table wanted to do this. We weren't looking to score political points." The Senate passed the bill with 68 votes, but the bill failed in the House.
When in November 2014, Obama announced on TV that he would use his executive powers to allow some undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, Flake said that the best response would be not to shut down the government, but to pass a bill that addresses immigration problems. As for Obama's executive plan, Flake said that he opposed it. Flake opposed using a government funding bill to stop Obama's executive action, but Flake also said that he believed that both parties' strategies would make it more difficult to pass immigration reform legislation.
Flake has publicly said that he believes that the reason so many children in recent years have come across the U.S. border illegally without parents is because parents believe their children will be able to stay in the United States if they do so. Flake has said that the Republican Party needs to take a rational approach to solving immigration problems, and if it does not, the party will have a difficult time winning national elections. Flake said that Jeb Bush's support of an immigration system reform makes Bush more electable in a general election. Flake supported Jeb Bush's remarks about immigration being an act of love, and said, "Growing up here in Arizona, I've seen what motivates those who come here illegally. Sure, some come with the intent to do harm or simply to take advantage of our generosity. But many come to find work to feed their families. To lump everyone who crosses the border illegally into the same class is unfair and unproductive."
In 2010, Flake voted against the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrant minors provided that they join the military or go to university. In late October 2012, Flake stated that he may support it in the future.
Flake spoke out against President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to prohibit immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. He stated that "It’s unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry.”
In 2007, Flake introduced legislation that would have provided a path to legalization for illegal immigrants, granted temporary legal status to illegal immigrants who paid a fine and passed background checks, and created a guest worker program. In 2007, Flake was removed from the House Judiciary Committee by Speaker of the House John Boehner for "bad behavior", which Boehner said was criticism of party leaders, though Flake himself attributed it to his support of comprehensive immigration reform.
In 2009, Flake introduced the Stopping Trained in America PhDs From Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act (H.R. 1791). The bill would have authorized students who earned a Ph.D. in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from U.S. universities to be admitted for permanent residence and to be exempted from the numerical limits on H-1B nonimmigrants. The bill was reintroduced in 2011 and was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement in February of that year.
In October 2008, Esquire named Congressman Flake one of the Ten Best Members of Congress saying in part, "A true conservative, Flake is as rare as the dodo. Republicans should learn from him, and liberals and libertarians will find in him a strong privacy-rights ally." On March 7, 2017, Flake introduced a bill to eliminate FCC Internet privacy rules that were passed under President Barack Obama. His proposed bill would allow Internet service providers to share and sell consumers' browsing history without consent. In regards to Obama's FCC Internet Privacy rules, Flake stated that "It is unnecessary, confusing and adds yet another innovation-stifling regulation to the Internet." Flake received $22,700 in donations from paid lobbyists representing Internet service providers and tech firms to sponsor the anti-privacy legislation. In April 2017, the legislation passed both houses of Congress, which are Republican-controlled, allowing ISPs to sell consumer browsing history and other information without the user's consent. One constituent at a town-hall meeting told Flake that "You sold my privacy up the river."
In 2007, Flake voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2010, Flake was one of fifteen Republican House members to vote in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which repealed the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which banned openly gay service members. Flake had voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage with a Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006. As a senator, Flake was one of 10 Senate Republicans to vote, once more, in favor of ENDA.
In March 2016, Flake said that Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia, should not be confirmed unless Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 presidential election. Flake argued that should Clinton win, Garland should be confirmed in the Senate's lame-duck session because he is less liberal than any nominee Clinton might put forward. After meeting with Garland in April, Flake reiterated this position, saying that confirmation hearings on Garland's nomination should not be taken up until after the election, so that the American people can choose the next president, unless Clinton won, in which case, "we ought to approve him quickly."
In April 2017, he voted to invoke cloture (end debate) on the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, putting an end to the Democratic filibuster. Flake also voted for the "nuclear option," ending the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees, and deviating from Senate tradition. He stated, "While changing Senate rules was not my preferred outcome, this will simply make de jure what was de facto prior to 2003, when filibusters were virtually never used on the executive calendar." Experts have noted that this could presage an end to the use of the filibuster altogether, allowing for simple majority votes on legislation.
In 2015, Flake and Senator John McCain published a report detailing what they called "paid patriotism" by the U.S. Department of Defense for using soldiers, military equipment and resources at professional sports events in the United States. The report gave evidence that taxpayer-funded patriotic displays extended not only to the NFL but also to Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer.
Flake and his wife Cheryl live in Mesa and have five children. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He spent time in Zimbabwe and South Africa as a Mormon missionary. The Flakes have been married since ca. 1985.
In 2009, while serving as a Representative, Flake spent a week alone on the island of Jabonwod, one of the Marshall Islands, as a survivalist venture. He survived by eating crabs, coconuts, and fish. Having enjoyed the experience, he decided to repeat it when he was a senator, this time bringing his two youngest sons with him to another island in the area, Biggarenn, for four days during a congressional recess in 2013.
|Arizona's 1st Congressional district Republican primary, 2000|
|Republican||Susan Bitter Smith||11,763||22.3%|
|2000||David Mendoza||97,455||42.4%||Jeff Flake||123,289||53.6%||Jon Burroughs||Libertarian||9,227||4.0%|
|Arizona's 6th Congressional district Republican primary, 2004|
|Arizona's 6th Congressional district Republican primary, 2010|
|Year||Democratic||Votes||Pct||Republican||Votes||3rd party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd party||Party||Votes||Pct|
|2002||Deborah Thomas||49,355||31.6%||Jeff Flake*||103,094||65.9%||Andy Wagner||Libertarian||3,888||2.5%|
|2004||(no candidate)||Jeff Flake||202,882||79.4%||Craig Stritar||Libertarian||52,695||20.6%|
|2006||(no candidate)||Jeff Flake*||152,201||74.8%||Jason M. Blair||Libertarian||51,285||25.2%|
|2008||Rebecca Schneider||115,457||34.6%||Jeff Flake*||208,582||62.4%||Rick Biondi||Libertarian||10,137||3.0%|
|2010||Rebecca Schneider||72,615||29.1%||Jeff Flake*||165,649||66.4%||Darell Tapp||Libertarian||7,712||3.1%||Richard Grayson||Green||3,407||1.4%|
|United State Senate Republican primary election in Arizona, 2012|
|Republican||Clair Van Steenwyk||29,159||5.7%|
|Republican||John Lyon (write-in)||126||0.0%|
|Republican||Luis Acle (write-in)||56||0.0%|
|2012||Richard Carmona||1,036,542||46.2%||Jeff Flake||1,104,457||49.2%||Marc Victor||Libertarian||102,109||4.6%|
In 2018 Flake's seat will be at stake. Flake angered some Republicans by his willingness to criticize Donald Trump, the party's nominee in the 2016 election for President. President Trump himself was "furious" that Flake called on him to withdraw from the presidential race after the emergence of the "Access Hollywood" tape. As a result, former Arizona state senator Kelli Ward has announced her intention to challenge him in the 2018 Republican primary. In August, 2017, Flake published his book Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, which expanded on his criticisms of Donald Trump.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 1st congressional district
J. D. Hayworth
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 6th congressional district
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Arizona
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Arizona
Served alongside: John McCain
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority