This is the tenth edition of a research project at PoliticusUSA known as Taking Back the House. You can check out the previous edition here. The purpose of this project is to analyze each Republican Congressional district in the United States and see how likely the district can go ‘Blue.’ To do this, I will take a look at the overall demographics of the district, as well as review the historical voting patterns and the record of the Congressperson representing the district. This series will run until we’ve looked at every single district in the country, which should take us right into the 2014 campaign season.
Congressional District: Arizona 8th District
U.S. Representative: Trent Franks
Median Household Income: $55,454 (National Average: $51,017)
Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (National Rate: 7.2%)
Gender: 51.4% Female, 48.6% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)
Age: 18.9% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)
Race: 87.9% White, 3.5% Black, 2.8% Asian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)
Ethnicity: 82% Non-Hispanic, 18% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)
Urban/Rural Population Split: 97.6% Urban, 2.4% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)
District Voting Patterns: Franks used to represent Arizona’s 2nd District. However, in 2012, redistricting placed the majority of his district in the 8th. The 8th District used to be a swing district, and was represented by Democrat Gabby Giffords for three terms until she retired from Congress due to the injuries she sustained in the infamous 2011 mass shooting near Tucson. In essence, the 2nd and 8th Districts flip-flopped, and another, more Democratic district was formed in the Phoenix area (the 9th.) While the 8th now has 85% less land than the old 2nd did, it retained 92% of the population and is almost completely suburban now.
Franks was first elected to Congress in 2002 and has generally won reelection by comfortable, if not landslide, margins. The average margin of victory has been around 20 points. In 2012, in his first election since redistricting, Franks defeated Democrat Gene Scharer by 28 points. This was on par with his 2010 campaign, when he won by 33 points. Franks also hasn’t dealt with any major Republican primary challengers in recent elections. In the Presidential elections, the district went for Mitt Romney by 25 points in 2012. In 2008, John McCain carried the same district lines 22 points.
Congressional Activity by Franks: Franks is a member of the Tea Party Caucus, so that should pretty much tell you everything you need to know. It should come as no surprise that he voted against raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government on October 16th. He also voted against the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ bill on January 1st, 2013. He was also one of 12 Republicans to vote against the 2013 Farm Bill in July, as he felt it just wasn’t conservative enough.
Franks currently serves on two committees, the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee. He’s also chair of a subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice. Per OpenCongress, he votes with his party 94% of the time. National Journal ranked him as the 78th most conservative member of Congress in 2012. Besides his extreme conservatism on economic and fiscal matters, he’s also far to the right on social issues. He’s very much against abortion, sponsoring or cosponsoring several bills limiting or restricting abortion. He’s also against same-sex marriage and for gun rights.
Notable Quotes by Franks:
“Obama’s first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers’ money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries. Now, I got to tell you, if a president will do that, there’s almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that. We shouldn’t be shocked that he does all these other insane things. 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.” – Made at the ‘How to Take Back America’ conference in September 2009.
“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.” – In an interview with blogger Mike Stark on February 26th, 2010.
Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Fairly low, but not impossible. Franks is now known as an extreme member of the Republican Party. He constantly goes out of his way to say controversial things in order to get attention and appeal to the far-right element of his base. However, the Tea Party’s popularity is getting lower and lower by the day. His vote to not raise the debt ceiling should turn off moderates and independents.
Having said all that, it is still more than likely he will be reelected, and by a comfortable margin. The demos show a largely white, suburban district. The voters in the district trend towards upper-middle class and are older, as nearly 20% of the population is 65 and over. Sure, there might be quite a few voters that are repulsed by Franks, but there could be just as many that love him for trying to take their country back. If the Democrats want to win this district, they need to run a ‘Blue Dog’ candidate with moderate to conservative social views. Funding levels also need to be very high for that candidate, as it would get ugly with Franks and the Tea Party machine behind him.
Justin is the Managing Editor and a Contributing Writer for Politicus Sports, PoliticusUSA’s very own sports site. You can check out the site here.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).