The Daily Agenda: The election after the election
Who's up for another round of David Gowan? ... Constitutions over kings ... And ask her anything about how she's awesome.
The speaker of the Arizona House, the president of the state Senate and Democratic leaders in both chambers of the Legislature are all leaving the Capitol this year. And the campaigns to replace them are already well underway.
Legislative leadership races are semi-secret, behind-the-scenes elections that will have a huge impact on how the Legislature operates.
Within days after the November general election, lawmakers from both parties will descend on the Capitol to select their new leadership teams in private, closed-door meetings.1 But right now, the candidates for leadership positions are campaigning in front of their small audience of voters: future lawmakers.
“Campaigning” for leadership usually means organizing fundraisers with lobbyists for the candidates, making connections for them, offering advice or otherwise helping them win their races.
We’ll be keeping an eye on leadership races as we careen toward November. But for today, we want to focus on who the candidates for the top slots are and why it matters who leads the chambers and caucuses.
Candidates for House Speaker
Joseph Chaplik, who has made a name for himself in MAGA circles during his first two years at the Capitol and has rallied grassroots groups on his behalf
Ben Toma, a former Peoria City council member who was first elected to the House in 2016 and served as majority leader for the last two years
Candidates for Senate president
J.D. Mesnard, who followed Gowan as speaker in 2016-17 and whose tenure was marked by efficiency and explosive sexual harassment claims against members that rocked the Capitol and ended with Mesnard leading the effort to expel a member of his own caucus
Warren Petersen, the House majority leader from 2018-19 who helped spearhead the Senate’s audit of the 2020 election and is a favorite of grassroots MAGA types
Candidates for House minority leader2
Andrés Cano, who represents the progressive wing of the caucus and was first elected in 2018
Jennifer Longdon, a writer and longtime political and disability activist who currently serves as the House assistant minority leader
Candidates for Senate minority leader
Raquel Terán, the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party
Sally Ann Gonzales, a longtime lawmaker from Pima County
To get a sense of why it matters who holds these positions, look no further than the disparate ways House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann handled the fallout of the 2020 election: Fann hired the Cyber Ninjas and their band of election conspiracy theorists to conduct a multi-million dollar hand recount of the 2020 election that kept Arizona in the spotlight for the better part of a year, while Bowers shot down former President Donald Trump’s repeated requests to help him overturn the election results in Arizona and assigned all conspiracy-inspired election bills to the trash can.
And the speaker and president have broad powers to hire and fire staff, send bills to committee and schedule them for votes (or not) and assign lawmakers to committees or strip them of their committee assignments. They set the pace and tone of the legislative session, serve as the voice and face of their caucus and negotiate with the governor come budget time.
Who Democrats pick to lead their caucuses could have a huge impact on their ability to get things done — be that by holding the caucus together to kill Republican bills or by reaching across the aisle to craft bipartisan policy. And if Democrat Katie Hobbs wins the governorship, the question of who leads the minority party in the Legislature becomes even more important.
He puts hot sauce on french fries: Time Magazine heavily featured Democratic secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes in a cover story about secretary of state candidates running against election deniers across the country. The piece highlighted Fontes’ military service and overall patriotism, as well as his belief that this race is the most patriotic thing he’s ever done and that “the stakes (of his race) are literally the fate of the free world.”
Supplementing > supplanting: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s super PAC is canceling all of its TV ads for GOP U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters, a nearly $10 million loss that McConnell says will be made up by other outside groups, Axios’ Josh Kraushaar writes. Meanwhile, Masters’ old boss, tech billionaire and right-wing benefactor Peter Thiel isn’t putting any more of his own money behind Masters right now, but is hosting a fundraiser for him at his California home, CNBC reports. And the whole episode goes to show that the MAGA Republican Party still needs its establishment “RINOs” to win, former Republic columnist Bob Robb writes on his Substack.
“Republican internal surveys have (Masters’) unfavorability ratings unusually high for a first-time candidate,” Kraushaar writes, noting Republicans are “wary” of his prospects.
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John Gault would be proud: In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute about his vision for the future of the Republican Party, Gov. Doug Ducey didn’t address the elephant in the room, though he did allude to him. His speech mostly focused on federalism and states’ rights, and how awesome governors are (especially the Arizona governor). But there were a few moments where he might have been talking about Donald Trump, including in the line that the U.S. “chose a constitution over a king, and it’s best we keep it that way.”
election junket season: The Republic’s Ray Stern broke down the nine-day lobbyist-and-taxpayer-funded European junket that a bipartisan group of 14 lawmakers — many of them lame ducks leaving the Capitol in January — took last month. He also notes that many more are on the way, as lawmakers attempt to position themselves as “diplomats for the state of Arizona.”
We heard the pandemic is over: A divided Pima County Board of Supervisors yesterday voted to rescind the mandate that new employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. The move comes ahead of a new law that is set to go on the books Saturday that bans municipalities from requiring vaccinations, the Arizona Daily Star’s Nicole Ludden reports. Supervisors also voted to get rid of the $45 per month health surcharge unvaccinated employees face, but offered 16 hours of paid time off to any employee that provides annual proof that they got a booster.
Birds of a feather…: Secretary of State Republican nominee Mark Finchem held a fundraiser with “9/11 truthers and QAnon influencers,” who believe the U.S. government (and/or aliens) orchestrated the September 11 attacks, that foods are made with aborted fetal tissue to make people cannibals and other weird things, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy writes.
He’s a patient man: After literally nobody was willing to go to court to defend Republican Rep. John Kavanagh’s law barring citizens from filming police at close range, Kavanagh told KTAR News yesterday that he’ll just pass the law again next year, with some tweaks to hopefully make it pass legal muster.
Not a good cop: Former Department of Public Safety head Frank Milstead got slapped with a restraining order from a woman he was seeing who claims he grabbed her by the arms and shook her until she got bruises, that he threatened her and stalked her, 12News reports. Milstead filed his own lawsuit claiming the woman was unfaithful and that he’s owed equity from a home they purchased together.
The inbox is always full: KJZZ’s “The Show” spoke with Joan Meiners, the Republic’s climate change reporter and a scientist in her old life, about her voluminous hate mail from climate deniers, which she has learned to appreciate because she thinks it means people are beginning to process the information she provides.
“The fact that they’re emailing me and that they’re reading, maybe it means we’re moving the needle a little bit,” she said.
We’ll be dead before they grow arms: The Tucson Audubon Society is attempting to plant 14,000 saguaros in southern Arizona to replace those lost to fire. The project will take several years, as the baby cacti have to grow strong enough to survive in the wild before they can even be planted, the Republic’s Sarah Lapidus writes.
Too much bison is a good problem: The National Park Service relocated 58 bison from the Grand Canyon’s north rim to Native American tribal land in Oklahoma and South Dakota as part of an ongoing population management project, the Associated Press reports.
Kari Lake began hosting “ask me anything” sessions to contrast herself with Democrat Katie Hobbs, who hasn’t been big on non-scripted appearances lately. She billed them as a kind of “bring it on” tour where she would answer the tough questions.
We couldn’t watch last night’s edition where her campaign manager asked her questions because the right-wing video platform she streamed it on was glitching too badly.
But her first AMA on Monday left us wondering if she’s screening out those tough questions.
Some of the softballs lobbed her way included “Why won’t Katie Hobbs debate you?” “You inspired our family to leave California… (How can we) help you?” and “How is your family?”
You can submit questions for tonight’s AMA here.
While the House speaker and Senate president are technically chosen by all lawmakers in each respective chamber, in reality, Republicans hold a private vote, then stick together on the official vote for their chamber leader, ensuring only a Republican can hold the position. Other leadership positions, such as majority and minority leader, assistant majority and minority leaders and whips for each caucus are chosen by members of their respective caucuses.
As any good Democrat will tell you, there are no candidates for “minority leadership” since Democrats always hope to take over the Capitol in the next election. For simplicity and clarity, we’re assuming that doesn’t happen and we’re using “Democrats” and “minority party” interchangeably.