Trent Franks resigns amid accusations of sexual harassment

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Rep. Trent Franks announced his resignation from the United States House of Representative Thursday, after House officials learned he had asked female staffers to bear his child as a surrogate.

Franks’ resignation means a statewide special election to determine who will represent the state’s eighth congressional district. The congressman’s last day in office is January 31; Gov. Ducey is required to announce a special election date within three days of the seat vacancy.


Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Multiple sources are reporting Trent Franks is resigning from office. He will step down at the end of next month. This as the house committee is investigating claims against him. He said in a statement, “I have never intimidated, coerced, have or attempted to have any sexual conduct with any member of my congressional staff. I deeply regret my decision of this option and discussion and process in the workplace that caused distress. Rather than allow a trial by media damage things I love most this morning I notified house leadership I will be leaving congress as of January 31st, 2018.” That means the governor will have to call a special election with the winner filling out Frank's term until next November. Joining us to talk about this is Stan Barns president of copper state trust. Is this a shocker?

Stan Barns: I think everybody in the political world and your viewers, it is a shocker. I guess we should suspect if there is going to be a cathartic earthquake underneath it is going to affect Arizona on the national stage and this is partly it.

Ted Simons: One of the first indications of this was the report on Roll Call, the political website. Roll Call said rumors regarding Franks and this kind of thing had been swirling since 2012 and if he resigns few would be surprised. What is going on there?

Stan Barns: The capital crowd is a ruthless bunch of people, they can be very nice, but it is also where rumors go to be born. There have been rumors about Trent Franks but there are rumors about a lot of people that tend to be baseless. I don't know what stock people put into them. But over the years the fact the Senator passed on an opportunity to -- that the Congressman, passed on the opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate gave rise to the idea he was hiding some behavior he was not proud of. I don't know if that is true. I consider him a friend and I think it is a loss for Arizona and I think it a loss for the West Valley. It is such an interesting cathartic change happening all over the country and here we are.

Ted Simons: He has been quiet, though, regarding Roy Moore. Kind of interesting?

Stan Barns: It is. But that could have been out of respect. Don't know why.

Ted Simons: First of all, real quick the house ethics committee they did released a statement and said it is sexual harassment and retaliation for claims of sexual harassment.

Stan Barns: That’s a bad word, retaliation, in this circumstance. Someone was asking me, Trent Franks doesn't seem to be the kind of guy to walk away from an ethics inquiry. But he is running away. I think it is fair to assume there is more to it than his side of the story but we will never know because it will never be told at least through the house ethics community.

Ted Simons: His side of the story mentions surrogacy and he is talking about his discussions maybe bothering other people. Would that be enough for an eight-term Congressman to leave?

Stan Barns: It doesn't pass the test for me personally. Just because I like the guy and consider him a friend I will take him at face value. His actions speak louder than words and he is resigning from what would be a lifetime seat from a member of congress. You don't do that willy-nilly or for no real reason. I assume he didn't have to face whatever he was going to face and you we will turn the page to the dominos that will fall that direction.

Ted Simons: Walk me through this. The governor -- he is resigning at the end of January. Between the end of January and November what happens?

Stan Barns: This doesn't happen everyday, right? I don't think many of us even know we went through the Arizona public school system don't realize there is no such thing as appointing a member of congress. Governors appoint U.S. Senators in a vacancy but not members of congress so we will have a special election. That is per the United States Constitution. The governor does get to decide when that is and he has to decide it within three days of the vacancy. So we can guess around February 1st the Governor Ducey will name a date for a primary and then there will be a general. The way the dates are looking now it might be like in April-June primary general to fill the vacancy and that will be the same time the normal election cycle is happening. So anyone running to replace Trent Franks will probably be running to two campaigns at the same time. They will be running the vacancy race and collecting signatures separately for the actual race in august and November.

Ted Simons: That suggests that the folks that want to jump into this better have their act together. That is a lot of signatures to collect.

Stan Barns: This is out of the blue. Everyone running is going from a dead spot to a full sprint. That favors name id and people with cash and political apparatus. There are a few people that fit in some degree of that category and others we don't know about.

Ted Simons: Names?

Stan Barns: My guess is every state legislature west of Central Avenue is interested in that seat. Or thinks they ought to be interested in that seat.

Ted Simons: Because Trent Franks was seen as not able to be removed. He was there for life.

Stan Barns: He was. So now people like state Senator Steve Montenegro, I am pretty sure he is going to shift gears from running from Secretary of State of Arizona and run for his boss' congressional seat. I even think to the extent it matters or is valuable that Trent Franks will probably endorse him. Because they have that kind of relationship.

Ted Simons: What about Stump?

Stan Barns: My understanding is Bob Stump is going to run for that.

Ted Simons: Big name out there.

Stan Barns: That is a poetic name. Of course, that was the name of the Congressman from that very area for 30 years. Bob stump is not related to that original bob stump but that doesn't matter. So those two and I suspect senator Debbie Lesco and senator Kimberly Yee. But this is a black swan event and perhaps she is calculating that as well.

Ted Simons: End of January he resigns. Immediately therefore, because you can't call the special election before he is leaving because he could change his mind. The governor says April for the special election. It has been to be a primary.

Stan Barns: I originally thought it was a one-day election but it is a primary and then a general. We will go through the whole process twice inside eight months.

Ted Simons: April primary, June general, August primary, November, general. Holy smokes.

Stan Barns: Whoever is running for that race is going to run two congressional campaigns some of which will overlap and be simultaneous. It is going to be interesting.

Ted Simons: 30 seconds the legacy of Trent Franks.

Stan Barns: I think it will be positive. He did a lot of great things for Arizona and the West Valley. The sad thing of this is this is no way to leave office. I feel bad for him, Al Franken and all these guys whether they deserve it or not. Public service is a grind and to go out and not on your own terms but under this cloud is just a sad day all the way around. I feel bad for him and his constituents.

Steve Barnes: President, Copper State Consulting Group

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