Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced he will not seek re-election in 2018 during a Senate speech in which he criticized President Donald Trump and a "new normal" in the political climate. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced Tuesday he intends to serve the remainder of his term but will not seek re-election in 2018.
Flake, who has been critical of President Donald Trump, condemned a "new normal" in the political sphere, adding he regrets being complicit in "this alarming and dangerous state of affairs."
"If I have been critical, it's not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States," he said during a speech on the Senate floor. "If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience."
He went on to say that the "casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals" must never be regarded as normal.
"The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters - the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided," he said.
When asked about Flake's decision, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders suggested he made the proper decision by deciding to retire from his seat.
"Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it's probably a good move," she said.
Sanders called Flake's remarks "petty."
"I noticed that a lot of the language, I didn't think, was befitting of the Senate floor," she said.
Kelli Ward, one of the Republican candidates to replace Flake in 2018, said his absence will help strengthen Trump's agenda.
"Arizona voters are the big winner in Jeff Flake's decision to not seek re-election," she said. "They deserve a strong conservative in the U.S. Senate who supports President Trump and the 'America First' agenda. Our campaign proudly offers an optimistic path forward for Arizona and America."
Following his speech Flake told CNN his criticism of the president made it difficult to participate in the upcoming race.
"It's difficult to move forward in a Republican primary if you have been critical of any of the behavior that's gone on," he said. "We Republicans certainly can't countenance that kind of behavior. We ought to stand up and say 'This is not right. This is not us. This is not conservative.'"
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who also announced he will not seek another Senate term, praised Flake for his decision.
"One of the greatest people I've served with," Corker said. "He's what I would call a real conservative."
Fellow Arizona Sen. John McCain spoke on the Senate floor after Flake, hailing him as "a man of integrity and honor and decency and commitment to not only Arizona but the United States of America."
"I have seen Jeff Flake stand up for what he believes in knowing full well that there would be a political price to pay," McCain said.