On Thursday, GOP Rep. Trent Franks unexpectedly announced he will resign from Congress. Multiple media outlets said he was leaving because of “inappropriate behavior,” but Franks’ actual statement was just jaw-dropping. Franks wrote he had learned the House Ethics Committee was looking into “my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable.”
Franks has represented Arizona’s conservative 8th District in suburban Phoenix since 2003, and he’s been a pain for the GOP leadership the entire time. During his first year in office, Franks had to be begged by the Bush administration to vote for the GOP’s Medicare overhaul; after that one reluctant tango with the establishment, he went over to the dark side and joined the nihilist Freedom Caucus.
Ever since, Franks has been a mouthpiece for some of the worst ideas of the far-right. Franks said in 2010 that “[f]ar more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery,” declared the next year that same-sex marriage was “a threat to the nation’s survival,” and mused in 2013 that the instances of rape causing pregnancy are “very low.” Franks also was very unbothered by the Russian government’s meddling in the 2016 elections, saying, “The bottom line is if they succeeded, if Russia succeeded in giving the American people information that was accurate, then they merely did what the media should have done,” before claiming his comments were misconstrued.
Franks’ seat includes a portion of the city of Phoenix as well as the nearby suburbs of Glendale, Peoria, and Surprise. The seat moved from 62-37 Romney to 58-37 Trump, so this won’t be a Democratic pickup opportunity barring some extraordinary circumstances. (Then again, we’ve seen a lot of extraordinary things this year.) Both parties will choose their nominees though primaries ahead of the special election that will be necessary to fill this vacancy.
P.S. Trent Franks does hold one very important footnote in history. In 2011, Franks’ own consultant told reporter Dave Catanese that Franks would run for the Senate. But in a stunning turn of events, Franks reversed course at the last possible second and sought re-election instead. That’s the source of the Franks Rule (which we only just formally named now), by which we don’t regard someone as a candidate for higher office until they say they’re a candidate for higher office, no matter how otherwise likely they seem to run. That’s not the best legacy after 15 years in Congress, but Franks will need to take it.