THE STEALTH CONGRESSMAN

EIGHT-TERM REPRESENTATIVE BOB STUMP STANDS TO BECOME THE SENIOR MEMBER OF THE ARIZONA DELEGATION. SO HOW COME YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF HIM?

Ivan Sidney, who served as the chairman of the Hopi tribe from 1981 to 1989, says he's never seen Stump on the reservation. "You can't really advocate for us out here if you've never been out here," he adds. Stump gets testy when asked about trips to the hinterlands. He's been to Tuba City, he insists. But he acknowledges that he doesn't spend a lot of time in sparsely populated areas of the district.

Lobbyists who share Stump's interests--such as Dave Iwanski, executive vice president of the Agri-Business Council of Arizona--find him extremely responsive. He may have a hard time delegating authority, Iwanski suggests.

"I think Bob has a tendency, if you give him a problem . . . what he wants to do is not turn that problem over to staff so much as get personally involved. See, he wants to hear eyeball-to-eyeball what's going on," Iwanski says.

But those whose causes aren't so near and dear to Stump's conservative heart say Stump is nearly invisible.

"Getting an appointment with Bob Stump is extremely difficult," says Rob Smith, Southwestern representative for the Sierra Club. "Somehow there's always a reason why he isn't there." Smith contends that the congressman's myopia on issues such as wilderness preservation leaves Stump out of the decision-making process in Congress. But he does credit Stump for his honesty. It's a vestige of the plainspokenness of other longtime Arizona lawmakers, such as Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall, Smith says: "If you're gonna disagree, at least tell someone that you do."
Earlier this year, Stump demonstrated his bluntness to his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee, which was working on the 1994 Department of Defense Authorization Act. The topic of discussion was gays in the military. Normally quiet at such meetings, Stump piped up: "In 1943, as a young boy, barely 16 years of age, I joined the United States Navy. Within two months, I was shipped overseas and spent over two years overseas. I cannot tell you the number of times I had to fend off homosexual after homosexual.

"You know, everybody talks about rights. Our young servicemen have rights, too, and they have a right to serve their country in an environment that is free of homosexuals."
@rule:
@body:Andy Hurwitz, who once served as chief of staff to former governor Bruce Babbitt, barely recalls the first encounter he had with Stump at a Washington cocktail party many years ago. (The story is now legend among Arizona congressional staffers.) He laughs when reminded. The Babbitt staffer was introduced to Congressman Stump, who looked him in the eye and announced, "I don't like Bruce Babbitt."

To this day, Hurwitz isn't sure whether Stump was serious, though he does recall that Stump and his boss "were not close."

In fairness to Stump, Hurwitz feels compelled to share a much different tale. When impeached governor Evan Mecham refused, initially, to relinquish the ninth floor to his successor, then-secretary of state Rose Mofford, Stump stepped in to mediate between his two old friends.

"He was just terrific," says Hurwitz, who, as Mofford's interim chief of staff, sat in on a meeting with Mofford, Mecham and Stump.

It's a rare anecdote that paints Stump as the great compromiser. But Hurwitz's tale may be heartening to those who know that at this point, there's just one thing that could prevent Bob Stump from ascending to the position of senior member of the Arizona congressional delegation: his defeat. (He has no plans to retire, he says.)

Local pollster Bruce Merrill says it's been four or five years since a reporter has called him with a question about Congressional District 3. Most consider that to be Stump's seat as long as he wants it. But this time, the Democrats say they're out to disprove that theory. In 1990, a Democrat from Flagstaff named Roger Hartstone spent less than $10,000 to challenge Stump and got 43 percent of the vote. (Flagstaff has since been redistricted out of District 3, and Hartstone didn't do nearly as well in 92. He declined to comment for this article.)

If it weren't for redistricting, Karan English of Flagstaff, who in 1992 won a seat in Congress in newly created District 6, might have run against Stump instead, according to Democratic insiders. She might have given Stump a run for it. These same wags whisper that Secretary of State Dick Mahoney has been urged to consider a run in 94, and that Arizona Democratic party chair Steve Owens has looked at it. Some say the Democrats have been lazy, by all but ignoring a seat that could be captured by a credible candidate. But others warn that the right candidate might be difficult to find; they question whether young city slickers like Mahoney and Owens could capture the allegiance of a district described in national political almanacs as home to elderly, conservative, Ozzie-and-Harriet types.

Owens will only admit that the Democrats are, in fact, targeting Stump's seat in the next election, and hope to get money to do battle in District 3 from the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pointing to a key hot-button issue--the district's overwhelming vote against state Proposition 110 in 1992--Owens notes that the district is pro-choice, and Bob Stump isn't.

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