Former Rep. Bob Franks Dies at 58: Lost U.S. Senate Race But Ideas Triumphed by Gregory HIlton

Former Congressman Bob Franks (R-NJ) has died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He had been in fine health until being diagnosed in February with an aggressive form of cancer. I am glad he lived long enough to see the victory of Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and to realize the budget cutting policies he advocated throughout his life were correct.
Franks was a moderate Republican who served as a Co-Chairman of Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign. He was pro-choice and never had a high rating from the NRA. Franks was accused of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only), but the GOP would certainly have gained if he had been allowed to serve in the U.S. Senate. He was often described as a deficit hawk and a strong fiscal conservative. He enthusiastically supported the GOP’s foreign policy and national security agenda, and was always pro-business.
Franks served 14 years in the state Assembly and never let voters forget that Gov. Jim Florio (D) had broken his no new taxes pledge. The late Congressman was in the forefront of the effort to mobilize the public revolt against Florio’s historic $2.8 billion tax increase.
Franks later served two terms as Chairman of the NJ Republican Party and for 8 years he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before being narrowly defeated in the 2000 U.S. Senate race by Jon Corzine (D). Corzine spent $62 million on his own money on that campaign, and received $3 million in donations.
No candidate in American history had ever spent more money on a statewide campaign. Franks had only $6 million but lost by a narrow 50% to 47% margin. He might have won if he had an extra week or more money for TV advertising. Franks was still able to win more votes than any Republican candidate running for statewide office in New Jersey in 28 years.
Franks was defeated but his message triumphed. He emphasized that decades ago New Jersey was ranked the number one state in the nation for economic growth, but those days were long over. He blamed too much spending and the imposition of a state income tax. Corzine would later be elected Governor with a pledge to cut property taxes by 40%, but he ended up increasing them 20%.
In the 2000 Senate campaign, Corzine opposed the welfare reform bill which had been signed by President Clinton. Corzine advocated the public option for health care, universal preschool and universal college scholarships. He never explained how the nation could pay for his platform.
I am especially grateful to Bob Franks for his weekend campaign seminars for candidates and GOP activists. There was no charge to attend and these gatherings provided the GOP with an invaluable network of supporters. Congressman Franks has left us far too early but we can be grateful for his outstanding leadership, enthusiasm and commitment. He was a moderate on social issues but he was defintiely a Republican. He will be missed.

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