Rep. Jeff Flake (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: Dec. 31, 1962, Snowflake .
Education: Brigham Young U., B.A. 1986, M.A. 1987.
Family: Married (Cheryl); 5 children.
Professional Career: Pub. plcy. exec., Shipley, Smoak & Henry, 1987-89; Exec. dir., Fndt. for Democracy (Namibia), 1989-90; Owner, Interface Pub. Affairs, 1990-92; Exec. dir., The Goldwater Inst., 1992-99.
The congressman from the 6th District is Jeff Flake, a Republican first elected in 2000 and known in his party as a maverick. A fifth-generation Arizonan, he is a Mormon who was born and raised on a ranch in Snowflake, a town named after his great-great-grandfather. The fifth of 11 children, Flake graduated with a degree in international studies from Brigham Young University and did missionary work in South Africa and Zimbabwe. In 1989, he moved to Namibia to become executive director of the Foundation for Democracy, which monitored democratic progress in that country. After Namibia gained independence in 1990, Flake returned to Arizona and became executive director of the Goldwater Institute, where he led the fight for Arizona’s charter-school law. In 2000, when conservative Republican Matt Salmon kept his pledge to serve only three terms in Congress, he hand-picked Flake to succeed him. Flake faced four opponents in a hard-fought September primary, in which he ran as the most conservative candidate. He had the support of several prominent Republican state leaders and was bolstered by more than $200,000 from the anti-tax organization Club for Growth. Flake won with 32% to 24% for Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio. In the general election, Flake won 54%-42% over Democrat David Mendoza, a longtime lobbyist for public employees.
|Jeff Flake (R)||208,582||(62%)||($845,005)|
|Rebecca Schneider (D)||115,457||(35%)||($4,478)|
|Rick Biondi (Lib)||10,137||(3%)|
|Jeff Flake (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (75%), 2004 (79%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (54%)
Flake promised to serve no more than three terms and to “continue to rock the boat” as Salmon had as a principled conservative who often bucked the Republican leadership. In his first year in the House, as Congress debated the first round of Bush-era tax cuts, Flake said that it would be a mistake for the Republican president to limit his proposed tax cut to the “easy things,” such as repeal of the marriage penalty, and estate and gift taxes. He called for replacing the income tax with a national sales tax, a proposal that never got off the ground. Flake has a habit of taking lonely stands. He was one of two members who voted against a bill to punish Sudan for its human-rights abuses. Flake said he had seen in Africa the adverse impact of economic sanctions on poor nations. He was one of 33 Republicans who voted against final passage of Bush’s No Child Left Behind education bill in 2001, and one of 25 Republicans who opposed the GOP’s Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003.
Perhaps his loneliest stand has been his battle against congressional earmarks, the special spending provisions slipped into bills by lawmakers to benefit their individual districts or states. The federal projects are then touted by their sponsors at election time, and due to its political value, earmarking is a widespread practice in Congress. From the beginning of his service in the House, Flake vowed never to ask members of the Appropriations Committee for earmarks. He has sponsored numerous amendments to delete specific earmarks, and in 2004 he began naming an “Egregious Earmark of the Week.” Almost all of his amendments have been overwhelmingly defeated. He got an average of 68 votes for them in 2006 and 85 votes in 2007. Flake finally won a round in June 2007, when he targeted $129,000 requested for the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree sought by North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry. Democrats, irritated by McHenry’s pugnacious conservatism, provided most of the votes for passage. In July 2007, Flake sought to block fellow Arizona Rep. Ed Pastor’s earmark for a Maricopa Community Colleges project after The Arizona Republic reported that MCC had hired Pastor’s daughter to run the program. When appropriators once tried to call him out for hypocrisy by publicizing his requests to them for military spending projects, Flake responded that earmarks solely for national defense were legitimate.
Immigration is a big issue in Arizona, which shares a border with Mexico, and Flake has joined with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in backing comprehensive bills with legalization and guest-worker programs as well as enforcement provisions. He warned that Republicans faced negative political consequences from Latino voters if they failed to pursue legislation that went beyond simply punishing illegal immigrants. In March 2007, he and Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a liberal Democrat, introduced such a bill requiring illegal immigrants to pay fines and back taxes and return to their countries before being granted legal status. With Democrats in the majority, Flake said “the planets were aligned” for the legislation, but it failed to pass the Senate in June and July of 2007, and the House leadership never brought it to the floor for a vote. Flake also organized the bipartisan Cuba Working Group to review the U.S. embargo of Cuba, and he has pushed repeatedly to lift restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, with occasional victories on the House floor. He has made five trips to Cuba and has continued to work, most recently with Democrat Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, to end the U.S. embargo on trade.
Flake has paid a price for his independence. In January 2007, the Republican leadership took away his seat on the Judiciary Committee, though six other members had less seniority than he did. In January 2008, after Republican Rep. Roger Wicker of Mississippi was appointed to the Senate and resigned from the House, Flake sought his seat on Appropriations—ground zero for earmarks. The seat went instead to Alabama Republican Jo Bonner, who had been chief of staff to longtime Appropriations member Sonny Callahan before being elected to take Callahan’s place. In November 2008, Flake once again sought a seat on Appropriations but seemed to realize that his chances were nil. So that month, he called for the replacement of the Republican leadership.
Flake gave some thought to challenging McCain in the 2004 Senate primary but decided against it. Instead he faced a serious primary challenge himself. Former state Sen. Stan Barnes called Flake “fringe, libertarian, and just a bit kooky,” and attacked him for his stance on immigration. Flake won 59%-41%, an unimpressive showing for an incumbent. But he had no Democratic opponent in November. Just days after the election, he announced that he would abandon his term-limit pledge. “As much as I hate to admit making a mistake, I made a big one here,” he said, repeating a theme often invoked by lawmakers who find they like being in Washington more than they though they would.
In 2006, Flake had no opposition in the primary and no Democratic opponent in the general election. Unlike some Arizona Republicans, he supported McCain for president early on, and campaigned for him in New Hampshire, an early primary state, when McCain’s chances appeared slight. In 2008, Flake had a Democratic opponent, but won 62%-35%. The day after the election, he wrote words of advice to the Republican Party, which he published on the Web: “I suggest that we return to first principles. At the top of that list has to be a recommitment to limited government. After eight years of profligate spending and soaring deficits, voters can be forgiven for not knowing that limited government has long been the first article of faith for Republicans.