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Political experts ponder Franks endorsement – boost or baggage?

Sen. Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park)

Sen. Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park)

After resigning amid scandal, Trent Franks called on Sen. Steve Montenegro to run for his 8th Congressional District, a call the state senator embraced wholeheartedly in announcing his candidacy.

Franks’ support may not have been the big win Montenegro needed to carry him to victory, but under other circumstances, it would have at least been easily considered a gold star for his campaign, political consultants said.

After two former staffers reported Franks had discussed surrogacy with them – apparently leaving open the possibility that he intended to impregnate them himself and reportedly offering millions in exchange – the value of his endorsement was called into question.

Constantin Querard, Montenegro’s consultant on the special election campaign, said while Franks’ endorsement may not be quite the hot commodity it used to be, he didn’t know whether his backing could hurt Montenegro.

Some people will have concerns about the Franks endorsement, he said, but other CD8 voters will still consider it a good thing.

Besides, there’s no escaping their ideological similarities, and Montenegro was already tied to Franks after working for him for years.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by pretending otherwise,” Querard said.

Republican consultant Chuck Coughlin said he doesn’t think the endorsement does much to give Montenegro an early boost because of the unique circumstances of Franks’ resignation.

Beyond that, Coughlin said he doesn’t think an endorsement from Franks is enough to actually win over his core constituency.

He expects the most impactful endorsements to come from President Donald Trump and former Gov. Jan Brewer. Phil Lovas, former state legislator and Trump campaign chairman, is likely to get the president’s support.

One endorsement Montenegro won’t get is Gov. Doug Ducey’s, but neither will his fellow Republican candidates – the governor said December 12 he doesn’t get involved in primaries.

Ducey said whether Franks’ endorsement would help or hurt Montenegro was a “question for the electorate” to decide.

With or without Franks, Coughlin said he doesn’t think Montenegro is a real contender in the district anyway.

“Quite frankly, and I want to put this carefully, the political reality of an ethnic name in a heavily Republican district is not really helpful,” he said, adding that challenge to what he sees as a lack of name recognition for Montenegro to begin with.

Still, former House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said touting the endorsement was a smart calculation for the primary.

Whether it ultimately has lasting, negative effects  in the general election, he added, won’t matter when the Democratic challenger likely doesn’t stand a chance.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think Steve Montenegro or any Republican in that primary is even thinking about the general election,” Campbell said. “They’re not concerned about it in the least because the numbers are so favorable to them. So, I’m sure Steve’s calculation is, ‘This gets me through the primary, and in the general election, who cares. The Democrats can’t catch me.’”

Yellow Sheet Report Editor Jeremy Duda contributed to this report. 

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