The Skinny


Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, who is pushing federal legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks across the country, got national attention last week after he became the latest Republican lawmaker to downplay concerns about pregnancies resulting from rape.

The Washington Post reported last Wednesday, June 12, that Franks said that the "incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low" while explaining during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee why there was no need for an exemption for rape or incest in his proposed bill.

As Democrats jumped on Franks' comments, he backpedaled and tried to explain that he meant that few women who were raped waited until the sixth month of pregnancy to get an abortion.

"Pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare," Franks told Talking Points Memo in an emailed statement. "This bill does not address unborn children in earlier gestations. Indeed, the bill does nothing to restrict abortions performed before the beginning of the sixth month."

Following the media firestorm over Franks' remarks, his fellow Republicans decided to amend the bill to allow exemptions for rape and incest. The bill was scheduled for a vote this week.

Franks' blundering remarks (surely someone could tell GOP lawmakers to just stop talking about rape and abortion?) gave the Arizona Democratic Party an opportunity to put Republican Martha McSally on the spot. The party sent out a press release reminding journalists about Franks' support for McSally.

McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot who nearly unseated Democratic Congressman Ron Barber last year, enjoyed a close relationship with Franks when she made her political debut. Franks was one of her first supporters, calling her "the exact kind of principled fighter we need in Congress" in a press release.

McSally was equally supportive of Franks, saying in the same press release that he was a "great conservative leader" who "serves as an example to every member of Congress of how to lead with integrity and humility while fighting for the values that we as Americans hold dear."

The Skinny reached out to McSally to see if she had a response to the Democratic Party's release, but we didn't hear back from her.

When the question abortion first came up in the 2012 campaign, McSally first sidestepped the question, telling the Weekly that "legislators are not really involved in this issue right now. We have a Supreme Court decision, and so I'll be focusing on things that the House of Representatives needs to be doing."

McSally later told the Center for Arizona Policy, via a questionnaire, that she opposed abortion in cases of rape and incest and only supported the procedure in situations where the life of the mother was at stake.

But after Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin delivered his now-infamous comments that women's bodies shut down and can't conceive during rape, McSally walked back from her position and said she would support exceptions for rape and incest, but otherwise supported a ban on all abortions.

McSally has not yet said if she'll look for a rematch against Barber next year, but she's been keeping her profile up with various public appearances.


Elsewhere in the Congressional District 2 rumor grind: We're hearing rumors that Ken Wahl, star of the 1980s TV series Wiseguy, may decide he wants to get into the 2014 race.

Wahl, whose Hollywood career ended after a severe spinal injury, splits his time between homes in CD2 and Los Angeles.

Wahl, a self-identified conservative who is active in the fight for animal rights, discussed his thoughts about running for Congress in an April U.K. Daily Mail story, in which he expressed general frustration with Washington, a dislike of President Barack Obama and—curiously—an admiration for CD2 incumbent Congressman Ron Barber: "I actually like Barber. He's very strong on veterans' affairs and generally centrist on other issues."

Wahl told the newspaper he'd probably run as an independent and sized up his chances thusly: "If I ran, I wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell but that's beside the point."


Conservative Republicans are vowing revenge on the GOP lawmakers who crossed party lines to support Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion.

The only Republican lawmaker in Southern Arizona to vote in favor of the Medicaid expansion was state Rep. Ethan Orr.

Orr represents Legislative District 9, which includes midtown Tucson, the Catalina Foothills and Casas Adobes. It's one of the state's few swing districts and is now represented in the House by Orr and Democrat Victoria Steele.

Orr has been drawing a lot of complaints by vocal conservatives, including Terri Proud, the one-term state representative who didn't run for reelection last year.

Last week, Proud was prepared to jump back into the politics, telling Arizona Capitol Times reporter Hank Stephenson that she "endorsed Ethan Orr, I helped him and I feel betrayed. He used us, he flat-out used us... It was a blatant slap in the face." While she stopped short of confirming plans to run against Orr, she did say she planned to announce a big decision on James T. Harris' afternoon talk-radio show on Monday, June 17.

When The Skinny tuned to Harris' show on Monday, however, it was a repeat, as Harris decided to take a day off, perhaps to watch the Matrix trilogy again. And when we reached out to Proud via Facebook to see if she was still planning a campaign, she told us that "after much thought and consideration I don't plan on staying in LD9."

Former state lawmaker Frank Antenori, who is leading the charge against the Medicaid expansion, says that he knows at least two other conservatives who want to run against Orr in the primary, as well as a Libertarian who might get into the race to drain votes away from Orr in the general election if he survives the primary.

We suppose that if Proud still wants to make a political comeback, she can relocate to heavily Republican LD11, which is now represented by the GOP troika of Al Melvin in the Senate and Adam Kwasman and Steve Smith in the House.

Melvin has decided his talents are deserving of a wider stage and plans to run for governor next year, leaving an open Senate seat. Smith, who lives up in Maricopa, plans to make a move to the upper chamber, leaving an open House seat that has already attracted the attention of SaddleBrooke resident and Melvin ally Vince Leach and former Pima County Republican Party chairman Bob Westerman.

There may, however, be two seats available in the House, should Kwasman follow through on his plan to run for Congress against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. (A situation that might be more complicated should Kwasman decide to quit the Legislature halfway through his first term to concentrate on that congressional campaign.)

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