Former Congressman Trent Franks entered the race to fill outgoing Rep. Debbie Lesko’s seat in Congress on Wednesday.
Franks, who resigned from the Congress in 2017, decided that he is going to vie for the position once again. His resignation in the 8th Congressional District led to Lesko’s tenure, and Franks had served in Congress since 2003.
In a statement, the Republican said that he originally did not feel compelled to enter the race until supporters began contacting him following the news that Lesko would not seek re-election.
“I was sincerely taken aback by the lucidity and near unanimity of many people I so deeply respect and trust most who ardently encouraged me to make the diligent effort to return to Congress,” Franks wrote.
Franks resigned in December 2017 after allegedly making inappropriate comments relating to surrogate pregnancies to female staffers, NBC News reported at the time. One of the allegations included Franks offering a staffer $5 million to be a surrogate for him and his wife, according to The New York Times.
“I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” he said in a 2017 statement. “However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about. My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced three miscarriages.”
His entry shakes up a crowded primary race of political heavyweights, such as former U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters, former attorney general nominee Abraham Hamadeh, state Sen. Anthony Kern, and likely state House Speaker Ben Toma.
Lesko has endorsed Toma, but Masters has won the endorsement of Congressman Paul Gosar, and Hamadeh has been endorsed by Senate candidate Kari Lake.
Early polling data showed either Masters or Hamadeh leading, but Franks’ decision to run is considered such a surprise that he was not included in those polls.
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