The Arizona secretary of state’s office has certified the first candidate in the special election to replace Republican Rep. Trent Franks, and it is not one of the best-known names.
Republican Clair Van Steenwyk of Sun City West filed 1,200 signatures to make the ballot late last week. He said Tuesday he’s continuing his efforts to take on establishment GOP candidates in making the run.
Van Steenwyk challenged Franks in the 2014 and 2016 primaries and won nearly 30 percent of the vote last year. In an odd twist, he also ran for U.S. Senate against John McCain last year despite a state law that bars candidates from running for more than one office in the same election if the person could not hold both seats if they won.
The secretary of state declined to kick him off the ballot, and no one challenged it in court, so Van Steenwyk got votes for both offices. He said Tuesday he believes the Constitution allowed it.
Franks resigned last month amid sexual harassment allegations. The special primary election is set for Feb. 27 with the general election on April 24.
Van Steenwyk, a 71-year-old retired businessman, said he’s campaigning as a “Christian, constitutional activist Republican,” who will buck the party when needed.
He has led the local and county tea party movements and been an activist for nearly a decade. He also ran for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake in 2012.
Other announced GOP candidates for the heavily Republican 8th Congressional District seat include former Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump and current or former legislators Steve Montenegro, Phil Lovas and Debbie Lesko.
In all, 25 Republicans, six Democrats and two Green Party candidates have filed as potential candidates and have until Jan. 10 to file signatures qualifying them for the ballot.
Van Steenwyk said three of the announced Republican candidates broke their contract with voters by leaving office before their term expired. Lovas quit the Legislature last year for a Trump administration job, Montenegro resigned last month to run for Franks’ seat and Lesko plans to do so.
Van Steenwyk called them and Stump “career politicians.”
“In the CD 8 race, everybody running, all these important people, Montenegro, Lovas, Lesko, Stump, not one of these people have run against an incumbent, Trent Franks,” Van Steenwyk said. “They don’t do it — they’re party loyalists. The real rebel in this race, the rebel Republican, is me.”