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And Stump insisted on conducting most of his official business from the mail desk, reserving his fancy member's chambers for meetings.
Thompson wasn't surprised. This was the guy who had personally paid for a fresh spray of flowers every day he served as president of the Arizona Senate. Yet it was at the legislature that Stump first made his mark as a fiscal conservative.
"When I ran the Senate, it was a joke, I guess, the whole time that people had to come to me to get a pencil or a typewriter ribbon," Stump recalls. And that extended to his voting record. In 1975, he described himself to a reporter as the "biggest 'no' voter around."
His conservative colleagues say the same about Stump today. Dick Armey of Texas and Jerry Solomon, a Republican from New York, say they and Stump maintain an ongoing, unofficial contest to see who can win the "most conservative" awards from taxpayer groups. Stump is a formidable opponent. He speaks proudly of the fact that he returns nearly half of his office budget to the House each year. Although he's allowed up to 18 staffers, he keeps only 11 to cover his Arizona and Washington offices.
But over the years, he has been lambasted for his spending in other areas. For example, Stump was criticized a few years ago when it was discovered that he was flying first class between Arizona and D.C. "I took my lumps for that," he says, shrugging. He now flies coach, but still doesn't think it was such a bad thing; flying first class allowed him to get more work done, he says.
Although he hasn't voted for congressional pay raises, he does accept them. As Stump observes, there is no legal way to turn the money back over to the federal government; he has joined in lawsuits to challenge this. Other members have, however, donated their pay raises to charity.
The issue that seems to irk people the most is the fact that Stump accepts government farm subsidies. He took almost $24,000 during the last complete program year for his two cotton farms, according to the Maricopa Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
Stump votes against the subsidies, but says he'll accept them as long as they exist. He was among a small minority of House members who supported a new agricultural spending program this year, a small subsidy for beekeepers. The move threw his critics into a tizzy. One disgusted congressional staffer grouses, "The bee isn't going away. They're not going to quit pollinating, for Chrissakes!"
@body:Every Sunday that he's home in Tolleson, which is most, you can find Bob Stump at the Sahuaro Cafe. The Mexican restaurant is tucked away on a quiet residential street, blocks away from the fields.
It's easy to picture Stump with a plate of huevos rancheros, leaning back in a red-leather booth and chatting with the locals. U.S. Representative Ed Pastor, whose district abuts Stump's, passes Stump Farms on the weekends and sees his colleague in the fields. Oddly, though, some of his constituents say Stump is out of touch with their needs--particularly those at the far reaches of his 45,000-square-mile district. Most District 3 voters are clustered in the West Valley communities of Sun City and Glendale. From there, the district reaches to the north and west, including Page, Williams, Prescott. A tongue of the district extends east of Flagstaff, however, to take in the Hopi reservation.
Maricopa County Supervisor Ed King, who represents Sun City, watched Stump campaign in that area last fall. "They just absolutely love him," King says. But folks in Kingman and Lake Havasu City say they see Stump rarely, if at all--even during campaign season. Stump and his chief of staff, Lisa Jackson, say that's because the congressman doesn't seek publicity when he's in the district. In contrast, Jackson is often visible. She has worked for the congressman since 1977; insiders say that she works so hard and has so much pull that she practically is the member of Congress.
Many hope she'll run for the seat when Stump retires. "Bob has been blessed with what is undoubtedly the best congressional staffer in the Arizona delegation, maybe ever," gushes Barry Dill, DeConcini's state director.
Unlike other members of Congress, Stump maintains his local office outside his district, in downtown Phoenix. Jackson says that's because Stump took over Steiger's office in the federal building for the convenience of constituents who must visit more than one federal office at a time.
Stump says he splits his time in the state between the farm--his official address inside District 3--and a residence "in town," meaning central Phoenix, outside District 3.
Stan Bindell, editor of the Navajo-Hopi Observer, says he's been observing Stump for a decade. Until redistricting after the 1990 census, Stump represented Tuba City and part of the Navajo reservation. "If he's been in Tuba City in the last eight to ten years, nobody is aware of it. . . . I don't even know of a time when Bob Stump's representatives have been on the [Navajo] reservation," says Bindell. He claims that few people on the Hopi and Navajo reservations knew Stump was their representative until he began to mention the fact in his columns.