Congressman Trent Franks said Wednesday he is leaning even more to running for the U.S. Senate now that he’s seen polling results and had more time to talk with his family about pursuing the seat that will be up for grabs in 2012.
“This is not a decision I had designs upon making. But now that it is here I feel like I have a responsibility to give the people a chance to choose between my perspective and Mr. Flake’s,” Franks said of fellow Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, the only declared GOP candidate. “We have significant differences on constitutional issues, on national security issues, on border security and illegal immigration issues. At least we did until today.”
Franks was referring to Flake’s recent position paper that shows he is moving away from comprehensive immigration reform, which he has championed for years.
In the paper, Flake says he no longer supports any effort on comprehensive reform until the border is secure.
“In the past I have supported a broad approach to immigration reform — increased border security coupled with a guest worker program,” the paper says. “I no longer do. I’ve been down that road and it is a dead end.”
Border politics and illegal immigration are hot-button topics in Arizona, and there is plenty of precedent for taking tougher positions during campaigns. Sen. John McCain famously backed away from his support for comprehensive immigration reform while running for re-election last year.
Flake already has won support for his candidacy in a race where no Democrats have announced their intent. On Wednesday, former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington said he was backing Flake after earlier considering a run of his own.
Symington said he thinks it would be “a mistake” for Franks to join Flake in pursuing the Senate seat now occupied by Jon Kyl, who is not seeking reelection.
“My view of that would be that it would be a mistake,” he said. “That would harken back to an earlier day ... when (Arizona congressmen Sam Steiger and John Conlan) went at it” in 1976. “They just hammered each other in the Republican primary, and then Dennis DeConcini came in from Pima County, a Democrat, and won the Senate seat.
“We would be well advised not to get into that kind of fight in a Republican primary this year,” Symington said.
While Franks said he has seen some polling numbers that favor him making a run, a poll on yourwestvalley.com indicates otherwise. The survey was posted earlier this month after the congressman hinted to members of Sun City West Republican Club he was contemplating a Senate run.
According to the survey, 68 percent of the respondents said he shouldn’t run; 32 percent said he should.
In terms of financing a campaign, Flake has a head start. the conservative Washington-based Club for Growth announced its members had contributed more than $350,000 to Flake’s campaign. The nonprofit supports candidates who run on a strict platform of lower taxes and less government regulation.
Flake’s fund-raising prowess doesn’t surprise Franks, who said he expects his fellow Republican to raise a lot of cash.
“My guess is that he will probably report in the neighborhood of $2 million,” Franks said. “But I’ve always been competitive in every campaign I’ve ever run, financially.”