By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona lawmaker said on Tuesday she will challenge U.S. Senator John McCain in the 2016 Republican primary, vowing to better represent conservative values.
Kelli Ward, a two-time state legislator, said it is time to replace the state's five-term senior senator with "a fresh, new voice" to serve residents in the burgeoning southwestern U.S. state.
"I'm running for the U.S. Senate to give you a real choice!" said Ward on her website. "Arizonans deserve a Senator who will fight for their values, and not just go along with the Beltway crowd."
The 46-year-old emergency room physician said in a video that McCain has "too often disappointed conservatives" on issues such as Obamacare, illegal immigration and federal spending.
She is scheduled to make a formal announcement later on Tuesday in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where she lives.
Ward has been weighing whether to try to oust the long-time incumbent since April in what political analysts say could be a tough battle.
McCain, 78, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 and now the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in April he would seek re-election and that he was ready for challenges from both sides of the political aisle.
In 2010, McCain beat back a strong bid to unseat him by a Tea Party favorite and easily cruised past his Democratic opponent.
His campaign released a statement after Ward's announcement, saying her "record of bizarre statements and questionable judgment will be a key concern for Arizona voters over the next year."
It noted some of Ward's controversial positions, including her support for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who was at the center of an armed standoff with federal agents in a dispute over cattle grazing rights last year.
"Arizonans know that John McCain will never stop fighting for Arizona and America, as he has his entire adult life, both in uniform and in Congress," the senator's campaign said.
Ward is hoping to tap into support of voters disgruntled with McCain's stances in recent years.
Last year, a resolution passed by a voice vote at a meeting of the Arizona Republican Party censured McCain for what his critics called his overly liberal record.
Ward may not be McCain's only Republican opponent. Arizona U.S. Representative Matt Salmon is mentioned by conservatives as a possible candidate.
Three-term Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick announced her candidacy in May.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)