In a surprising turn of events, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced Tuesday afternoon that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Flake, 54, who is a strong critic of President Trump, told the Arizona Republic that he is convinced “there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.”

In a telephone interview with the Republic, Flake said, “Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take. It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”

Flake said he has not “soured on the Senate” and loves the institution, but that as a traditional, libertarian-leaning conservative Republican he is out of step with today’s Trump-dominated GOP, the Arizona Republic reported.

He recognizes that there is huge support for Trump’s positions and “behavior” among Republican primary voters, and said he has ruled out the option of running as an Independent. He also confirmed that he has “no intention” of running for president.

By Flake dropping out of the race, it opens the door for other challengers, including Dr. Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who lost her primary bid last year against Sen. John McCain.

Flake, first elected to the Senate in 2012, was a member of the infamous “Gang of Eight” team in 2013, which attempted to provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the United States.

He has been a frequent critic of President Trump, refusing to endorse him during the presidential election; Trump has often criticized Flake, as well.

In a speech Flake delivered to the Senate floor Tuesday, he stated the following, in a direct slam against the president:

“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.”

Below is the full transcript of his retirement speech.

Flake announces retirement on Senate floor by kballuck1 on Scribd

For more on this story, click the "read more" button below.