While GOP legislative leadership positions will not be elected until November, several primaries are already over as candidates are running unopposed in many districts, so campaigning has already begun for leadership positions in the 50th Legislature. Here is a quick look at ongoing and potential matchups.
ARIZONA STATE SENATE:
The main theme here is turnover. Due to resignations and term limits, 10 of the original 18 Republican Senators are not returning to the body.
PRESIDENT – Sen. Russell Pearce will be running, as will Sen. Steve Pierce. Also sounding out legislators about support is current Rep. Steve Yarbrough who is running for the Senate. It is unlikely that Yarbrough will win, after all he will be a freshman in the Senate and moving directly into the office of the President would be most unusual. Former House Speaker Jim Weiers attempted that move and failed, and he failed while he was the powerful Speaker of the House. Additionally, would the entire Senate want to be stuck behind a President with eight years of service left? It would tell the entire body that they will never be President. That means its Pearce versus Pierce, and while the initial advantage goes to Pearce, several right versus left primaries will need to be resolved before either can claim victory.
MAJORITY LEADER/MAJORITY WHIP – These two fields have yet to solidify, but Capitol observers expect to see Senators Frank Antenori, Al Melvin, and possibly Sylvia Allen to run for one position or the other. Allen has a tough primary in front of her with Rep. Bill Konopnicki, but could be in a very strong position if she prevails. Antenori would be an energetic leader while Melvin is able to work well with caucus members across the ideological spectrum, an important characteristic that pretty much rules out Senator Ron Gould (we’re kidding here, mostly, as Gould as not actually been mentioned for any leadership race.)
ARIZONA STATE HOUSE:
14 of the original 35 Republican House members will not be returning, yet at least one of the races will feature familiar faces.
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE – A rematch of the 2008 race between former Speaker Jim Weiers and current Speaker Kirk Adams is on tap. The 2008 race was close, and the outcome of this race will likely be determined on August 24th when the primaries are settled.
MAJORITY LEADER – Right now, its Rep. Andy Tobin’s job to lose, although Rep. Laurin Hendrix could be a real challenge if he is re-elected out of a crowded primary field that also includes former State Rep. Eddie Farnsworth.
MAJORITY WHIP – Representatives Russ Jones, Debbie Lesko, and Steve Montenegro are the three names being bandied about most at this time. Each would bring an element of diversity to the leadership team, and none can really claim a lead at this time. Each has a general election contest (Lesko also faces a primary) that they would be small favorites to win, so if you have to bet, put your money on Montenegro. He has benefited from a large amount of national media exposure resulting from his transparency bill, the ban on race-based preferences (co-authored with Sen. Pearce) that will be on November’s ballot, and SB1070. So he is a proven commodity in terms of dealing with the media and he can do so in English and Spanish, no small thing in a state like Arizona.