Trent Franks

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Trent Franks
Trent Franks, official portrait, 114th Congress.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona
In office
January 3, 2003 – December 8, 2017
Preceded byBob Stump (Redistricting)
Succeeded byDebbie Lesko
Constituency2nd district (2003–2013)
8th district (2013–2017)
Member of the Arizona House of Representatives
from the 20th district
In office
January 1985 – January 1987
Serving with Debbie McCune Davis
Preceded byGlenn Davis[1]
Succeeded byBobby Raymond
Personal details
Born (1957-06-19) June 19, 1957 (age 65)
Uravan, Colorado, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Josephine Franks
(m. 1980)

Trent Franks (born June 19, 1957) is a former American politician and businessman who served as the U.S. representative for Arizona's 8th congressional district from 2003 to 2017 (numbered as the 2nd district from 2003 to 2013). He is a member of the Republican Party. During his tenure, Franks served as vice chairman of the United States Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and chairman of the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

In December 2017, the House Ethics Committee announced that it would investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Franks.[2] Franks had repeatedly asked two female staffers to bear his children as surrogate mothers; he allegedly offered one of them $5 million to carry his child.[3][4][5][6] The women feared that Franks wanted to impregnate them sexually as part of the surrogacy process.[3][6] Franks acknowledged discussing surrogacy with the aides but denied the other allegations; he resigned from Congress immediately after the ethics investigation was announced, blaming his situation on "the current cultural and media climate".[3][7][8]

Early life and education[edit]

Franks was born in Uravan, Colorado, a company town which is now a ghost town. Franks is the son of Juanita and Edward Taylor Franks.[9] He was born with a cleft lip and palate. After his parents separated, Franks took care of his younger siblings.[10] Franks graduated from Briggsdale High School in Colorado in 1976.[11]

In 1987, he completed a course of study at the non-accredited Utah's National Center for Constitutional Studies, formerly known as the Freemen Institute.[12] For one year, from 1989 to 1990, he attended the Arizona campus of Ottawa University.[13]

Early career[edit]

After high school, Franks bought a drilling rig and moved to Texas to drill wells with his best friend and his younger brother. He moved to Arizona in 1981, where he continued to drill wells.

Arizona House of Representatives[edit]

In 1984, while working as an engineer for an oil and gas royalty-purchasing firm, Franks began his political career by running in a heavily Democratic district for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, against incumbent Democrat Glenn Davis. Franks campaigned on a conservative "Reagan Republican" platform emphasizing stronger child protection laws as well as protecting unborn children and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.[14] He narrowly won the election by 155 votes amid that year's massive national Republican wave. In the state legislature, Franks served as Vice-Chairman of the Commerce Committee and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Child Protection and Family Preservation.

In November 1988, Franks ran again for a legislative seat, moving to District 18 shortly before the filing deadline. He lost that election.[15]

Arizona governor's cabinet[edit]

In January 1987, he was appointed by Republican Governor Evan Mecham to head the Arizona Governor's Office for Children, a cabinet-level division of the governor's office responsible for overseeing and coordinating state policy and programs for Arizona's children.

Franks then founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Focus on the Family. He was the executive director of the organization for four and a half years.[16] He was successful in the Republican primary but lost in the November general election.

Political activism[edit]

In 1992, when Franks was chairman of Arizonans for Common Sense, one of the organization's efforts was a constitutional amendment on the November 1992 ballot to "protect most preborn children in Arizona from abortion on demand".[17] The initiative lost, getting about 35 percent of the votes cast.

In August 1995, Arizonans for an Empowered Future, of which Franks was chairman, launched an initiative campaign to amend the state constitution, replacing the graduated state income tax with a flat 3.5 percent rate, and allowing parents to deduct the costs of private school tuition. That effort was also unsuccessful. Later that year, Franks, became the original author and leading proponent of the successful passage of the Tuition Tax Credit Bill in Arizona.[18] The initiative was not one of those appearing on the ballot in 1996.

In 1997, Trent Franks, along with his brother, Lane Franks, founded Liberty Petroleum Corporation, a petroleum exploration company.[19] That year, Franks also worked as a consultant and surrogate speaker for conservative activist Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


Franks at the 2011 Veterans Day parade in Phoenix, Arizona

Franks ran for Arizona's 4th congressional district in 1994, after incumbent U.S. Representative Jon Kyl decided to run for the U.S. Senate. He lost to John Shadegg, 43–30%.[20]


Following the 2000 Census,[21] Arizona got two additional seats.[22] Franks' home in Glendale was drawn into the 2nd district. That district had previously been the 3rd District, represented by 13-term incumbent Republican Bob Stump, who was not running for reelection. The initial favorite in the race was Lisa Jackson Atkins, Stump's longtime chief of staff, whom Stump had endorsed as his successor. Atkins had long been very visible in the district (in contrast to her more low-key boss) to the point that many thought she was the district's representative. Franks narrowly defeated Atkins in the seven-candidate Republican primary, 28–26%, a difference of just 797 votes.[23][24] He won the November 2002 general election, defeating Democrat Randy Camacho, 60–37%.[25][26]


Franks faced competition in the Republican primary from the more moderate businessman Rick Murphy. Franks defeated him 64–36%.[27] He won re-election to a second term, by defeating Camacho in a rematch, 59–38%.[28]


He won re-election to a third term with 59% of the vote.[29]


He won re-election to a fourth term with 59% of the vote.[30]


Franks was again challenged in the Republican primary. However, he easily defeated Charles Black, 81–19%.[31] He won re-election to a fifth term with 65% of the vote.[32]


For his first five terms, Franks represented a vast district encompassing most of northwestern Arizona from the West Valley to the California border, including Lake Havasu City and the Grand Canyon. While the district appeared rural, the bulk of its population was in the West Valley, which had dominated the district since it was drawn into what was then the 3rd in 1967. The district appeared to be gerrymandered because of a narrow tendril connecting the Hopi reservation to the rest of the district. However, due to longstanding disputes between the Hopi and Navajo, it had long been believed the two tribes should be in separate districts.

However, after the 2010 census, Franks' district was renumbered as the 8th District, and reduced to essentially the Maricopa County portion of the old 2nd. It included most of Glendale, as well as all of Sun City and Surprise, almost all of Peoria, and much of western Phoenix. As evidence of how much the West Valley had dominated the district, Franks retained 92 percent of his former constituents, even as he lost 85 percent of his old district's land.[33] He was challenged in the Republican primary by Tony Passalacqua, whom Franks defeated easily, 83–17%.[34] The new 8th was no less Republican than the old 2nd, and Franks won a sixth term with 63% of the vote.[35]

Congressman Franks speaking at a rally in November 2014

Franks won his party's election in the Republican primary on August 26, 2014.

Political positions[edit]

In 2009, National Journal ranked Franks among the "most conservative" members of the U.S. House of Representatives.[36] He was a member of the Republican Study Committee.[37]

Online gaming[edit]

In 2006, he cosponsored H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act[38][non-primary source needed] and H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.[39][non-primary source needed]

Homeland security[edit]

On October 14, 2009, Franks joined with three other members of Congress in calling for the investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) over allegations of trying to plant "spies" based on a CAIR memo indicating that the group planned to "develop national initiatives such as Lobby day" and place "Muslim interns in Congressional offices." The request followed the publication of the book Muslim Mafia. Representative Sue Myrick had written the foreword, which characterized CAIR as subversive and aligned with terrorists.[40] CAIR countered that these initiatives are extensively used by all advocacy groups and accused Franks and his colleagues of intending to intimidate American Muslims who "take part in the political process and exercise their rights."[41]


Franks signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.[42] In 2010, Franks voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He received high approval ratings from the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.[43] In November 2011, he voted to pass H.R. 2930, which authorizes crowdfunding for small businesses.[citation needed]

In 2009, Franks signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes.[44]

Criticism of the Obama administration[edit]

He opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying "the thought of Americans' health care decisions being put into the hands of an unimaginably large bureaucracy is a frightening prospect." He was not supported by American Public Health Association or the Children's Health Fund.[45]

In September 2009, he called President Barack Obama an "enemy of humanity" with his spokesperson later clarifying the remarks were in response to Obama's position on abortion.[46]

"A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity," Franks said to the "How to Take Back America" conference.[47]


In a 2010 interview, discussing the legacy of slavery which Franks described as a "crushing mark on America's soul", the congressman said, "Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery."[48][49][50][51][52]

In June 2013, he proposed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, without exceptions for rape and incest. He stirred controversy when saying that "the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." He later clarified, "Pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare."[53] The bill passed by a vote of 228–196.[54]

In 2017, he again proposed the same bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks without exceptions for rape and incest. The bill passed by a vote of 237–189.[55]

Franks presided over a hearing to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia, in which he did not allow D.C.'s lone delegate and Member of Congress, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, to testify. In doing so, he said Congress has the authority to "exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" in the District, even though the heavily Democratic district is strongly opposed to the ban.[56]

Franks has also been involved in the founding of a crisis pregnancy center in Tempe, Arizona.[57] In the past, Franks has picketed abortion clinics but has ceased to do so stating in a June 2013 interview that "It became clear to me that I could be more effective by trying to do something to light a candle rather than curse the darkness."[57]


Franks in 2016

During the 2008 campaign, Franks stated that he is skeptical about global warming and other commonly accepted theories supported by the scientific community. Franks is a past chairman of the Children's Hope Scholarship Foundation.[58]

He opposes same-sex marriage.[59]

Franks opposes gun control. The interest group Gun Owners of America has given Franks high approval ratings.[60] In 2011, he voted to pass the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act.[61] Franks has also been active with Operation Smile.[62]

Sexual harassment scandal and resignation[edit]

In December 2017, two of Franks' former aides accused him of sexually harassing them by pushing them to serve as surrogate mothers for his wife.[3][7] In response, the House Ethics Committee announced that it would investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Franks.[63][64][65][66]

On December 7, 2017–hours after the ethics investigation became public–Franks announced he would resign from the House on January 31, 2018. In a statement, Franks acknowledged discussing surrogacy with the aides and acknowledged that he inadvertently discussed it in a manner that was "insensitive," and regretted "having caused distress" to his former aides. While he denied the other allegations, he stated that "the current cultural and media climate" made a fair hearing impossible, and was resigning to prevent harm to "those things I love most."[7][8][67] The following day, after his wife was admitted to the hospital, Franks announced his immediate resignation.[3]

It later emerged that one of the aides' friends advised the aide to seek counsel from Traditional Values Coalition president Andrea Lafferty. When the aide was ready to come forward, Lafferty arranged a meeting with staffers from House Speaker Paul Ryan's office. Lafferty told CNN that she was outraged that "somebody who purports to be a conservative and a Christian" could behave in the manner that Franks allegedly behaved.[68] According to a statement from Ryan, his general counsel interviewed the ex-aide on November 28, during which she mentioned the second aide's claims of misconduct. After Ryan's staff was able to corroborate the second aide's claims, Ryan was briefed on November 29. On November 30, Ryan called Franks in and confronted him with the allegations. After Franks "did not deny" the allegations, Ryan referred the matter to the Ethics Committee and demanded Franks' resignation. Subsequent talks between Ryan and Franks led to Franks tendering his resignation on December 7. In his statement, Ryan said that he found the aides' claims "credible," and acted in accordance with his duty to ensure "a safe workplace in the House."[69]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Legislation sponsored[edit]

  • Congressman Franks sponsored into law The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act[72] to protect America's critical infrastructure including protecting the electric grid against natural and weaponized electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
  • On April 9, 2013, Franks introduced the Keep the Promise Act of 2013 (H.R. 1410; 113th Congress).[73] If enacted, the bill would prevent the Arizona Native American tribe Tohono O'odham from building a planned casino in the Phoenix metropolitan area.[74][75] The Keep the Promise Act of 2013 would prohibit Class II and III gaming on land within the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area that is acquired after April 9, 2013, by the Secretary of the Interior in trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe.[76] The bill would terminate that prohibition on January 1, 2027.[76]

Opponents of the bill gave several reasons for their opposition. Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) was opposed to the bill because it would hurt job creation and break a promise to the Tohono O'odham tribe.[75] Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. objected to the bill because it is "special interest legislation" that creates a "no-competition zone" for the two tribes that already have casinos in that area.[75]

Proponents of the bill included Gila River Indian Community Gov. Gregory Mendoza, who was in favor of the bill because he believes that the compact not to build more casinos needs to be respected.[75] The Tohono O’odham Nation argues that federal rules allow casinos on reservation land created after October 17, 1988, if they are part of a settlement of a land claim. The Nation claims the West Valley land is partial replacement to settle a claim for the 10,000 acres (40 km2) of its lands that were flooded as a result of the construction of the Painted Rock Dam on the Gila River.[77]

  • On July 14, 2017, Franks introduced Amendment No. 13 to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018.[78] The amendment called for a database surveying American Muslim leaders to identify violent and "unorthodox" strains of Islam. Critics of the amendment, including, most notably, Minnesota Democratic congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, repudiated the amendment as an attempt to subject one religion to special scrutiny. Ultimately, the amendment was defeated 217–208, with 27 House Republicans joining all the House Democrats in voting in opposition.[79]

Ultimately, the amendment was defeated 217–208, with 27 House Republicans joining all the House Democrats in voting in opposition.[80]

  • in Congress, Franks was a chief opponent of abortion. He was the original sponsor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,[81] which began in 2017 on his initiative and then continued in 2019 thanks to Congressman Ben Sasse;[82] The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act;[83] and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. All three bills passed the U.S. House of Representatives with the latter becoming the first bill in history to pass either chamber of Congress affording affirmative protection to a fetus.[citation needed]

Electoral history[edit]

Arizona House of Representatives 20th District Election, 1984
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Debbie McCune (incumbent) 15,575 30.7
Republican Trent Franks 13,166 25.9
Democratic Glenn Davis (incumbent) 12,937 25.5
Republican Richard Adams 9,125 18.0
Arizona House of Representatives 20th District Election, 1986
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Debbie McCune (incumbent) 13,866 32.2
Democratic Bobby Raymond 10,258 23.9
Republican Trent Franks (incumbent) 10,063 23.4
Republican Georgia Hargan 8,825 20.5
Arizona's 4th Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Shadegg 26,489 43.1
Republican Trent Franks 18,574 30.2
Republican Jim Bruner 12,718 20.7
Republican Joan Jugloff 3,678 6.0
Arizona's 2nd Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks 14,749 27.7
Republican Lisa Atkins 13,952 26.2
Republican John Keegan 10,560 19.8
Republican Scott Bundgaard 8,701 16.3
Republican Dusko Jovicic 3,805 7.1
Republican Mike Schaefer 933 1.8
Republican Dick Hensky 618 1.2
Arizona's 2nd Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc.) 45,261 63.6
Republican Rick Murphy 25,871 36.4
Arizona's 2nd Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc.) 81,252 80.9
Republican Charles Black 19,220 19.1
Arizona's 2nd congressional district: Results 2002–2010[84]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd party Party Votes Pct 3rd party Party Votes Pct
2002 Randy Camacho 61,217 36.6% Trent Franks 100,359 59.9% Edward R. Carlson Libertarian 5,919 3.5% *
2004 Randy Camacho 107,406 38.5% Trent Franks 165,260 59.2% Powell Gammill Libertarian 6,625 2.4% *
2006 John Thrasher 89,671 38.9% Trent Franks 135,150 58.6% Powell Gammill Libertarian 5,734 2.5% *
2008 John Thrasher 125,611 37.2% Trent Franks 200,914 59.4% Powell Gammill Libertarian 7,882 2.3% William Crum Green 3,616 1.1%
2010 John Thrasher 82,891 31.1% Trent Franks 173,173 64.9% Powell Gammill Libertarian 10,820 4.1% *
Arizona's 8th Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc.) 57,257 83.2
Republican Tony Passalacqua 11,572 16.8
Republican/Write-in Helmuth Hack 18 nil
Arizona's 8th congressional district: Results 2012[85]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd party Party Votes Pct
2012 Gene Scharer 95,635 35.1% Trent Franks 172,809 63.3% Stephen Dolgos Americans Elect 4,347 1.6%
Arizona's 8th Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc.) 53,771 73.3
Republican Clair Van Steenwyk 19,629 26.7
Total 73,400 100
Arizona's 8th Congressional District Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc.) 128,710 75.8%
Americans Elect Stephen Dolgos 41,066 24.2%
Total 169,776 100
Arizona's 8th Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc.) 59,042 71.1
Republican Clair Van Steenwyk 24,042 28.9
Total votes 83,084 100
Arizona’s 8th congressional district, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Trent Franks (inc) 204,942 68.5
Green Mark Salazar 93,954 31.5
Republican Hayden Keener III (write-in) 75 nil
Total votes 298,971 100

Personal life[edit]

Franks and his wife, Josephine, have been married since 1979; they are members of the North Phoenix Baptist Church.[86] Franks' wife, Josephine, is an immigrant.[87]


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  80. ^[bare URL]
  81. ^ Franks, Trent (September 22, 2015). "Text – H.R.3504 – 114th Congress (2015–2016): Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act". Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  82. ^ Sasse, Ben (February 25, 2020). "Text – S.311 – 116th Congress (2019–2020): Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act". Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  83. ^ Franks, Trent (January 23, 2017). "H.R.147 – 115th Congress (2017–2018): Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2017". Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  84. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2008.
  85. ^ United States House of Representatives elections in Arizona, 2012
  86. ^ "The Arena: – Rep. Trent Franks Bio". Politico. Retrieved October 21, 2013. [...] Congressman Franks and his wife Josephine have been married since 1979. They live in Peoria with their children, Joshua and Emily, and are members of North Phoenix Baptist Church. [...]
  87. ^ "How Many Latinos Serve In Congress? Depends On Whom You Ask". Fox News. February 5, 2013. Retrieved February 22, 2017.

External links[edit]

Arizona House of Representatives
Preceded by
Glen Davis
Member of the Arizona House of Representatives
from the 20th district

Succeeded by
Bobby Raymond
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ron Barber
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative