Rep. Trent Franks (R)
Arizona 2nd District
Beyond the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, much of Arizona looks as it did a century ago. Some is intentionally preserved in its natural state, such as the sere uplands of the Hopi Indian Reservation. Other places maintain a timeless Western look, like Wickenburg, the oldest Arizona town north of Tucson. Still others preserve antiquated ways of life, such as the polygamist community of Colorado City, just south of Utah. In some cases, nature and settlement juxtapose jarringly: The real London Bridge has been transplanted to Lake Havasu City, a retirement community on the Colorado River.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
All of these areas are part of the 2nd Congressional District of Arizona, which stretches from the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead in the northwest corner of the state to the western suburbs of Phoenix, where 80% of its voters live. Astride Grand Avenue, the only diagonal street in the rigorous grid of metro Phoenix, is the mushrooming suburb of Glendale, not so long ago just a crossroads but now home to 253,000. The Phoenix Coyotes hockey stadium went up in Glendale in 2003, followed in 2006 by the University of Phoenix Stadium, where Super Bowl XLII was played in February 2008, and a new baseball facility where the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox set up spring training in 2009. The nearby Westgate City Center is now one of several edge cities in Phoenix’s Valley of the Sun. Just west in the former desert are Peoria, as Middle American as its namesake in Illinois, and the huge retirement community of Sun City, started in the 1950s. This had been a growth area, but the mid-2000s housing boom was followed by a bust, with median housing values in the Phoenix area down 33% from October 2007 to October 2008.
The 2nd District also includes the fast-growing corridor along the Interstate 10 Papago Freeway, taking in Luke Air Force Base, which has the largest fighter training wing in the Air Force and the only active-duty F-16 training base in the United States. It extends to the once-open spaces of Goodyear and Buckeye and Mohave County, with its growing Las Vegas suburbs, and the Hopi Indian Reservation, connected to the rest of the district by a narrow, oddly shaped corridor that runs along the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
This is Republican territory. The retirees here remember the culturally conservative, Ozzie-and-Harriet lifestyle of the 1950s, and the upwardly striving, family-oriented young migrants who have populated new towns in the desert are trying to replicate it. Culture, more than affluence, which by national standards is not all that striking here, accounts for their political conservatism. Republicans also dominate the new cities along the Colorado River.
Rep. Trent Franks (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: June 19, 1957, Uravan, CO .
Education: Ottawa University, 1989-90.
Family: Married (Josie); 2 children.
Elected office: AZ House of Reps., 1984-86.
Professional Career: Director, AZ Governor's Office for Children, 1987-88; Exec. director, AZ Family Research Institute, 1989-93; Writer-commentator, AZ radio station KTKP; Co-owner, Franks Brothers Independent Drilling; Pres.-CEO, Liberty Petroleum Corp.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Trent Franks, a Republican first elected in 2002. He grew up in Colorado, attended college only briefly, and started his own oil-and-gas exploration business. His political career began when he won a single term in the Arizona House in 1984. There, he was known for wearing a tie tack in the shape of the feet of a fetus, as a constant reminder of his anti-abortion-rights views. In 1987, he was the director of the Governor’s Office for Children under Evan Mecham, a conservative Republican who was later impeached. In 1989, he became executive director of the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization associated with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and he was a consultant to conservative Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign. Franks sought unsuccessfully for a 1992 ballot initiative to limit abortion rights. He designed the state’s 1997 scholarship tax credit legislation, a much-litigated measure that ultimately was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The plan provides tax credits for donations to nonprofit organizations to help families pay for private education. In 1994, he ran for an open U.S. House seat but lost to John Shadegg in the Republican primary, 43%-30%.
|Trent Franks (R)||200,914||(59%)||($442,232)|
|John Thrasher (D)||125,611||(37%)||($37,187)|
|Powell Gammill (Lib)||7,882||(2%)|
|Trent Franks (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (59%), 2004 (59%), 2002 (60%)
In 2002, Republican Rep. Bob Stump announced he was retiring and endorsed Lisa Atkins, his chief of staff throughout his 26-year congressional career. When the campaign started, Franks was not in the top tier of candidates. But his base of Christian conservatives and abortion opponents, plus an infusion into his campaign of $300,000 of his own money, made him a contender. Franks spent heavily on radio ads, and he benefited from the distribution of a voter guide by the Center for Arizona Policy, which described itself as “the only organization in Arizona actively fighting in the Legislature and media for conservative, traditional views on gambling, homosexuality, and pornography.” Franks called for overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, and for constitutional protection for fetuses. He endorsed a flat tax as a step toward eliminating the federal income tax, supported individual investment accounts in Social Security, and called for tougher enforcement of immigration laws. His base of activists made the difference. He finished first with 28% of the vote, only 797 votes ahead of Atkins, who got 26%. In November, he won 60%-37%.
In the House, Franks has a solidly conservative record. He has sought co-sponsors for his Children’s Hope Act, which was based on his 1997 state scholarship tax credit. And he wrote an anti-child-pornography bill. In the 110th Congress (2007-08), he opposed expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and sought to deny eligibility for the program to illegal immigrants. He proved his outsider stripes by proposing that service on the Appropriations Committee be limited to a maximum of three terms in 10 years. And he said he had no interest in serving on the committee, which controls the government purse strings and is ground zero for earmarks, the special spending provisions inserted into appropriations bills by individual lawmakers. But he succumbed to pressure from Republican leaders and earned their gratitude in December 2003 by switching his vote to support the Medicare prescription drug bill during a tension-filled, three-hour roll-call vote. Many conservatives opposed the massive expansion of the program to pay for prescription drugs for senior citizens.
On the Armed Services Committee, Franks worked to secure $27 million for Arizona to buy land adjacent to Luke Air Force Base in order to curtail housing development, and he worked to locate the new F-35 joint strike fighter planes at Luke. He has strongly supported missile defense and Boeing’s bid to build the new Air Force tanker. From 2007 until 2009, he was the ranking Republican on the Constitution subcommittee of Judiciary where worked to promote building a fence along the U.S. borders to stem illegal immigration. Also in 2007, his amendment to require the Pentagon to inform Congress of weapons provided by Iran to the Taliban passed by voice vote. Franks, who has had multiple surgeries on his cleft palate, has encouraged public awareness of the facial deformity. In 2009, Franks became the ranking Republican on the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
In his first bid for re-election in 2004, Franks faced a competitive primary against Rick Murphy, a free-spending radio station owner, who criticized Franks for supporting the prescription drug bill. Murphy was endorsed by several local Republican officials who complained about their lack of contact with Franks. Murphy also attacked Franks for abandoning his promise not to take money from political action committees. Franks won 64%-36%, a good showing but less than what safe incumbents usually get over primary challengers. He narrowly lost Mohave County, but he took 68% in Maricopa, which cast 76% of the total vote. In November Franks won 59%-39%, a downtick from 2002.
He had no primary opposition in 2006 or 2008, and won both general elections with 59% of the vote. In the early maneuvering for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, Franks backed Duncan Hunter, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, as “an unequivocal social conservative and fiscal conservative” over home-state favorite Sen. John McCain of Arizona. In November 2008, he called newly elected President Obama “the most dangerous president the country has ever had.”