Disgraced congressman plays key role in special election to replace him

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FILE - In this March 24, 2017 file photo, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, as the House nears a vote on their health care overhaul. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) FILE - In this March 24, 2017 file photo, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, as the House nears a vote on their health care overhaul. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Former Congressman Trent Franks stepped down in December amid an embarrassing sexual harassment scandal, but remains a major figure in the race to replace him. 

[RELATED: Rep. Trent Franks resigns immediately amid surrogacy allegation]

Rather than denouncing the disgraced congressman's actions, one of the top contenders is touting his endorsement, while others are choosing to avoid angering Franks' supporters. 

Political experts say this shows how popular Franks remains in the district despite accusations that he offered one of his a female staff members $5 million to carry his surrogate child. 

"I think he was a great congressman," said former state Sen. Steve Montenegro. 

Montenegro, who also worked in Franks' congressional office for nearly a decade, is considered one of the favorites to win on Tuesday. 

He's featured the endorsement from Franks on his campaign signs and in his advertisements. 

Ironically, Montenegro is now facing his own sex scandal in which the Christian minister and family values candidate acknowledged receiving a nude picture of a woman who worked at the state Senate. 

[RELATED: Arizona GOP congressional candidate swept up in sexting case]

He resisted calls for him to step down, meaning the race could come down to whether or not voters are as forgiving of Montenegro as he's been of Franks.

[RELATED: Crowded field for House special election raises more than $1.1 million]

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Dennis WlechVeteran political reporter Dennis Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona.

Dennis Welch
Political Editor

Before making the move to television, Welch wrote and edited for the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California. Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona and his addition means 3TV will provide a stronger, more robust political presence in Arizona. He joins 3TV from the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California.

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