December 11, 2017 , 2:56 pm
The race to fill the congressional seat once held by Trent Franks is taking shape just days after his resignation, and a crowded Republican primary seems inevitable.
Bob Stump, a Republican who has served at the state Legislature and on the Arizona Corporation Commission, was the first to announce on Friday. And on Monday, Sen. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, said he’s in, followed by an announcement via Twitter from former state lawmaker Phil Lovas that he had resigned from the United States Small Business Administration.
Gov. Doug Ducey announced today the primary election for the Congressional District 8 seat will be Feb. 27 and the general election on April 24. The candidates have until Jan. 10 to file paperwork to officially enter the race.
The Arizona attorney general’s office is also reviewing whether the state’s resign-to-run law means sitting lawmakers must step down if they decide to run for former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks’ seat.
Office spokesman Ryan Anderson says attorneys are looking at state law, the state Constitution and previous cases to see if the Jan. 10 filing deadline for the Franks special election triggers the law. Resign-to-run bars sitting officeholders from running unless they are in their last year of office.
The filing deadline comes more than a year before lawmakers’ current terms officially expire next January. Election lawyer Tim La Sota says it’s clear the law requires resignation.
Lovas left the state House in April to serve as the Region IX advocate for the Trump administration’s Office of Advocacy. He was an early supporter of President Trump and was widely expected to take a job with the administration after serving as campaign chair in Arizona.
Consultant Brian Seitchik, who ran Trump’s Arizona campaign and who is now speaking for Lovas, said, “Phil will have more to say about his future later this week.”
As a federal employee, Lovas was prohibited from speaking publicly about running for public office.
Though there has already been speculation about a Trump endorsement in the works for Lovas, Montenegro boasted about support from Franks. Speaking on Facebook Live, Montenegro said Franks personally asked him to run for his seat.
Franks announced on Dec. 7 his resignation would take effect Jan. 31 because two female staffers complained that he had discussed surrogacy with them.
Franks amended his resignation Dec. 8 to be effective immediately. That came on the tails of reports that he had offered an aide $5 million to be a surrogate for his child and left the two staffers concerned that he was suggesting impregnating them through sexual intercourse.
Montenegro said he was shocked by the news of Franks’ resignation.
“Washington D.C. doesn’t want good men, doesn’t want conservatives there,” he said during his announcement. “What Washington D.C. wants is congressmen and congresswomen that will go there and do what’s in the best interest of Washington, of big interests.”
Republican campaign consultant Constantin Querard said Montenegro plans to resign by Friday because he wants to ensure Legislative District 13 has a new senator in place before the start of session on Jan. 8.
Montenegro had been gearing up for a primary battle against Secretary of State Michele Reagan for her seat.
Other Republicans have expressed interest in the congressional seat, including Sen. Debbie Lesko of Peoria, Sen. Kimberly Yee of Phoenix.
Lesko told the Arizona Capitol Times that she’s “likely to run” for the seat and has considered it for a long time.
“I always thought that Trent would move on to the Senate, so I’ve kind of contemplated running before,” she said. “I would never have run against him.”
She was reached while attending the American Legislative Exchange Council conference in Nashville, however, and said it was still too early to say what her ultimate decision may be.
Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman is also among suspected contenders, but he told the Arizona Capitol Times he had not made a firm decision as of Monday.
Hickman said he was leaning toward not running at first but has received enough supportive calls to get him to consider it. Still, he was not prepared for Franks to step down, and while others are “scurrying” to decide on their political ambitions, he said his children are what give him pause now.
“My ambition is to be the best father I can be to a 12-, a 10- and a 7-year-old,” he said, adding, “Nothing replaces these years, so I’m conflicted.”
He, too, will be making an announcement this week.
Jeremy Duda and The Associated Press contributed to this report.