Longform

THE STEALTH CONGRESSMAN

Page 5 of 6

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.

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."

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.