Longform

THE STEALTH CONGRESSMAN

Page 6 of 6

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.

There could even be a serious challenge on the Republican side. Ivan Sidney is now running for chairmanship of the Hopi tribe, but says he's considering running for the Republican nomination in Stump's district. Stump acts bored by such talk, though he says he takes every race seriously. He leans back against the slippery black leather of a couch in his seldom-used congressional office and thinks for a moment about going after the now-open Senate seat. He did, after all, consider such a move in 1986, when Barry Goldwater stepped down. (Insiders say John McCain jumped into that race before Stump had made a decision, but that Goldwater had initially supported Stump.)

Anyway, that's ancient history, as far as Stump's concerned. No, he says, he doesn't want to be a senator. Too much fund raising. And there's no way he could keep up with all that mail. "I tell you," he says, "I got all I can do.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.