Flake stands on his record as a conservative reformer

2012-09-30T00:00:00Z 2012-10-01T19:15:50Z Flake stands on his record as a conservative reformerBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 30, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Jeff Flake has a résumé custom-built for a modern-day U.S. senator from Arizona.

He's a Republican who lives in the Phoenix area. He's served multiple terms in the U.S. House. And if elected, he would start his U.S. Senate career at 50.

It all matches closely with the profiles of Arizona's two longtime sitting senators: Jon Kyl, who is retiring, and John McCain.

And polls make him the front-runner over Democrat Richard Carmona and Libertarian Marc Victor.

Flake's pitch to voters is simple - he has proved over 12 years in Congress he's a conservative reformer dedicated to reining in government spending. His campaign to end earmarks is his signature achievement.

"I have a record of standing up for what's right, particularly for fiscal discipline," Flake said. "There is nothing more this country needs right now than for somebody to stand up, regardless which party is in charge."

Carmona and the Democrats say Flake is a Washington insider who is part of the problem, when what Arizonans want is a U.S. senator focused on building up Arizona, and not just saying no to everything.

"Jeff Flake is against everything and for nothing," Carmona said. "He's not doing anything. He's a chronic politician. He shows up, but he doesn't bring value to the state."

Flake's primary opponent, Wil Cardon took the same tack with dismal results. losing by 48 points despite spending nearly $8.8 million of his own money.

Flake, citing being named twice by Washingtonian Magazine as the No. 1 enemy of lobbyists in Congress, called the assertion he is a cozy insider "a bit of a laugher."

He adds that he lost his spot on the Judiciary Committee in 2007 for talking about the failure of Republican leaders to stop earmark abuses.

Flake admits he says no a lot, as would someone who believes in limited government, but says he passed more amendments in the House than any other Republican in his 12 years.

"I do work across the aisle quite effectively on issues that are of mutual importance, and where it benefits the state of Arizona or the country as a whole," he said.

When asked what he is for, he says, "I'm for balanced budgets, first and foremost."

the Flake Clan

Flake is a fifth-generation Arizonan and member of the Flake clan, for which his hometown of Snowflake in northeast Arizona is named.

His uncle Jake Flake was speaker of the House in the Arizona Legislature.

"It's been a record of service, and I take that seriously," Flake said. "This is a wonderful state. As I said when I launched this campaign: The beauty of the sunset in Arizona is only eclipsed by the splendor of the sunrise the next day."

After getting bachelor's and master's degrees from Brigham Young University, Flake worked for a public-affairs firm in Washington. As one of 11 children, he said he paid his way through college because his parents couldn't.

"I had no fewer than two jobs working through college for both degrees," he said. "I've never been handed anything in my life."

His first stint in Washington was as an intern for Dennis DeConcini - Arizona's last Democratic senator. He later lived in Namibia in southern Africa to run a foundation monitoring the country's independence process.

In 1992 he returned to Arizona to become executive director of the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based, conservative public policy and research organization, quitting in 1999 to run for Congress, where he served six terms representing the southeastern Phoenix metro area.

His crusade against earmarks paid off when the House implemented a policy to stop the practice in 2010. The Senate followed suit the next year.

First in, last standing?

Flake became the first candidate to throw his name into the hat for Kyl's Senate seat in mid-February 2011, just days after Kyl announced he would retire.

When he announced his retirement, Kyl said he had considered stepping down in 2006 but wanted to make sure the seat stayed with the Republicans.

Democrats began chipping away at Flake during the primary, criticizing his broken term-limit pledge, his positions on Medicare and his work lobbying In Washington more than 20 years ago on behalf of a uranium mine in Namibia partially owned by Iran.

Flake scoffs at the "lobbyist" label, saying he was working to help a country become independent from South Africa, and Iran's interest in the company wasn't known until years later.

Since the primary, Carmona and the Democrats have hit Flake on policy contrasts between the two, his backing from outside political groups and votes against veterans benefits.

After the conservative Club for Growth announced it had surpassed the $1 million mark in bundled contributions for Flake, Carmona said it showed his ties are to Washington special-interest groups.

Flake has said he's pleased with the support from the group, which he says shares his principles of limited government, low taxes and less federal spending.

Perhaps the most scathing attack has been on Flake's voting record on veterans issues. There are two TV ads running, one paid for by Carmona and the other by a national veterans PAC, that paint Flake as failing to support veterans based on five votes.

Flake vehemently denies the assertion that he's letting veterans down, pointing to more than 80 veterans bills on which he's voted yes. He's called it deplorable to depict him as anti-veteran by cherry-picking from his voting record.

Flake said his priority will be reining in federal government spending and growing the economy by reforming the tax code and reining in federal regulations.

"You can't have an economy grow dragging around an anchor that is our $16 trillion debt and $1.3 trillion deficit," Flake said. "It is kind of one and the same - you have to have fiscal discipline and a conducive tax and regulatory environment to allow our economy to take off."

If Flake wins, he would take office at 50 years old, the same age McCain was when he began his Senate career in 1986. Kyl wasn't much older, 52, when he started his Senate career.

Flake has spoken often about the importance of Arizona selecting a senator who can take the torch from Kyl on fighting for issues important to Arizona, such as water and border.

"You've got to have somebody who has a history or at least a knowledge of these issues and is on the right side of them," Flake said.

On StarNet: For information on the candidates and propositions and the latest election news, go to azstar net.com/elections

mORE ELECTION COVERAGE INSIDE

• Senate candidates share their views on top issues for the upcoming election. Page A7

• A profile of Libertarian Senate candidate Marc Victor. Page A7

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @BradyMcCombs.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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