Republicans jump in as elections to replace Rep. Franks set

FILE - In this March 24, 2017, file photo, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington. Franks says he is resigning Jan. 31 amid a House Ethics Committee investigation of possible sexual harassment. Franks says in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff. Instead, he says, the dispute resulted from a discussion of surrogacy. Franks and his wife have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Cliff Owen

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservative Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks is resigning from Congress, two GOP strategists said Thursday, the third lawmaker to announce his resignation this week.

Neither Republican operative said they knew why the eight-term Franks was leaving. His departure had not been expected, and one of the consultants said Franks was leaving on Thursday.

Franks was seen being comforted in the chamber by several other Republicans shortly before he left the House floor. They included Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, Alabama's Robert Aderholt and fellow Arizonan Andy Biggs.

Asked for comment as he left the floor, Franks said, "I'll let the statement speak for itself." But by early Thursday evening, it was not clear what statement he was referencing.

Franks has been a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. He's a staunch social conservative who sponsored House-passed legislation to make it a crime for any person to perform an abortion if the age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.

The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a decision they'd been told privately.

Earlier Thursday, liberal Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced his resignation after facing allegations of sexual harassment by at least eight women. Franken said some of those accusations were false and said he remembered others differently than his accusers did. He said he'd depart in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned effective immediately. He also faced accusations from women of improper sexual behavior that he's contesting.

Franks drew a sharp response from Democrats during a 2013 House committee debate when he said "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." He sought to clarify the comment, saying later-term abortions linked to pregnancies caused by rape are infrequent.

He's a strong backer of President Donald Trump and has embraced some of his stances on social issues. Franks has harshly criticized some NFL players for not standing during the national anthem, calling them "arrogant and overpaid Lilliputians who dishonor America."

Franks represents a district encompassing suburbs north and west of Phoenix. He serves on the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees.

Before winning election to Congress, he served in the Arizona legislature and founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization associated with Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family." The institute advocates for policies designed to protect children and families.

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