Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords hasn’t announced whether she will seek re-election in November, but that isn’t keeping Frank Antenori quiet.
Antenori spent 20 years in the military, many of those as a sergeant in the Green Berets. He trained the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and won the Bronze Star for valor during the Iraq War.
But now he’s a no-nonsense state senator in Arizona, and has all but announced his candidacy for Giffords’ U.S. House seat.
Antenori told The Daily Caller that he believes the Democratic Party is intentionally delaying Giffords’ announcement in order to hamstring any GOP challengers.
“I do believe there’s a political strategy in play here by the Democrats to exploit if they can as long as possible the situation,” said Antenori, “to keep Republicans from actively beginning to campaign.”
“I believe that the constituents that she represents understand the situation,” he added. “But eventually they’re going to want to know what the story is — is she going to run or not run, is she going to represent the district or not?”
The filing deadline for the election is May 30, but Antenori says that “nobody waits until May 30 to announce: Most candidates for Congress historically announce in January or February… Any later than that, you hamper your campaign.”
“If the Democrats wait much longer, it’ll backfire on them,” he predicted.
The district has was modified slightly after the 2010 census. Although it is slightly less Republican than it once was, Antenori describes it as “a winnable Republican district,” citing a one or two percent voter-outcome advantage for the GOP.
Antenori told TheDC that his campaign would almost entirely focus on restoring “fiscal sanity.”
He said that the ballooning national deficit can be brought under control, citing drastic improvements in Arizona’s budget after Republicans replaced former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.
“If you look at what we did in Arizona, we had a Democratic governor who spent money that we didn’t have. The state was staring down the worst deficit in the country per capita,” he noted. “We had a $3 billion budget deficit and that’s been erased in just three years. Now we don’t have a deficit anymore, we’re in the black and paying off our debts.”
“What happened here in Arizona is that the adults once again took over the credit card and reined in out of control spending,” he said.
In Washington, D.C., he said, politicians are behaving like drunken college students racking up bills.
“It’s tantamount to giving your 19-year-old son or daughter your credit card with no limits and letting them go off to college and just run the credit card bill through the roof,” he said. “We can’t do that anymore — the adults have to step in and instill fiscal sanity and discipline in this country and bring the budget back in line with revenue.”
Striking an optimistic note, Antenori added, “We did it here in Arizona. It took us a couple years, but it’s doable.”
“Were we the mean guys? No, we were the thoughtful guys,” he said. “If you send strong fiscal conservatives to Washington, there’s a way to reduce spending without causing catastrophic damage. We did it here in Arizona. The state didn’t crumble, buildings didn’t fall, the earth didn’t open and swallow us whole, the sun came up the next day, and things are actually getting better.”
He said border security, national security and ensuring individual liberty are also important issues to him and his would-be constituents, but that the threat of “insolvency” takes priority above all else.
As a sergeant in the Green Berets, “I used to run around and put a boot in people’s rear end to get the job done,” he said. “I don’t pussyfoot around with people.”
“A lot of people get a little heartburn about me because I’m very blunt, I’m very direct. And they don’t appreciate that because they are used to the milquetoast squishy mealy-mouthed politicians that like to lie to people,” said Antenori. “The inability to look constituents square in the eyes and tell them the truth is what’s destroying this country.”
“I offend some people because they’re very sensitive and they don’t want to hear the truth,” he acknowledged. “They want you to sugar coat everything and blow smoke up their skirt to make them feel good… They want you to stroke them and make them feel good and have you tell them everything’s going to be okay.”
He says he’s won elections by telling constituents, “if you want to have someone make you feel good about things, vote for my opponent.”
Antenori said that he has received an outpouring of positive reactions from Arizonans to his likely candidacy. Although Giffords supporters occasionally hassle him, Antenori said most people respond with some variation of, “hey look, we’ve got a country to run, we’re facing a lot of important decisions, and we need someone up there to fight for us.”