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Stephen Franks (born 1950) is a New Zealand politician. He is a member of the ACT New Zealand party, and was formerly a contender for its leadership. He is regarded as the most prominent member of ACT's more orthodox wing, which opposes what it sees as the party's increasingly populist stance.
Franks was educated at Victoria University of Wellington, studying law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1975. He specialised in commercial law, and has held a number of senior legal positions (including the chairmanship of Chapman Tripp, a prominent law firm). Franks first entered parliament in the 1999 elections, having been ranked in third place on the party's list. This high ranking (above several sitting MPs) was indicative of ACT's high hopes for Franks at the time - as a prominent lawyer, he was generally regarded as a significant asset for the party. In Parliament, Franks' main policy portfolio was justice and law, although he has also served as the party's commerce spokesperson.
When Richard Prebble announced his retirement from politics in early 2004, Franks was one of the four candidates who sought to take his place as leader of ACT. The other contenders were Rodney Hide, Ken Shirley, and Muriel Newman. Franks saw Rodney Hide, considered by many to be the front-runner, as representing a populist approach to politics, which Franks believed to detract from the party's core message. Franks emerged as the foremost "anti-Hide" leadership candidate, but despite receiving (along with Ken Shirley) the endorsement of party founder Roger Douglas, was eventually defeated. Hide became leader of the ACT party on 13 June. Franks is currently ranked fourth in the ACT caucus, and remains the party's spokesperson for justice.
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