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New senator won’t talk about state’s budget mess

David Braswell (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography

David Braswell (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography

Sen. David Braswell doesn’t have the luxury of time, but he’s trying to buy as much of it as possible.

The educator and businessman was appointed to replace Sen. Pamela Gorman on Feb. 8, was assigned to his first committee on Feb. 9 and began voting on measures on Feb. 10.

Soon, his vote will be critical on issues such as tax cuts, the extension of the payday loan industry in Arizona, and spending reductions in all areas of state government. The state is already months behind on closing the fiscal 2010 budget deficit, and another multibillion dollar budget hole will need to be filled within the next few months.

Everyone in the Senate knew where his predecessor stood on budget issues; Gorman opposed the governor’s proposal to raise the state sales tax, sought reductions in government spending and advocated tax cuts to help the economy in the midst of the recession.

But Braswell said he isn’t ready to explain his positions on those issues. In fact, he refused to say how he would vote on budget measures.

“I’m not going to be driven by the need of a newspaper to ask me what my positions are until I have evaluated and read everything,” he said.

He said he will release information on his own terms. He said he has formed general opinions on the state budget, though he said he wasn’t ready to explain those opinions.

“I’m not going to be put in a hole until I’m ready to be put in a hole,” he said.

One measure Braswell won’t have to vote on is the sales tax referral that was passed by the Legislature this week. When asked how he would have voted on that issue, Braswell said the question was pointless.

“There’s no need to think back,” he said. “If it comes back up again, ask me the question.”

He said it’s too early to talk about his non-budget priorities. He said he’d be a team player and said he plans to spend his time listening to other lawmakers before acting on his own.

He’s already been given a couple of assignments, though, that will require him to stake out his positions. Senate President Bob Burns assigned Braswell to the Public Safety and Human Services and the Education Accountability and Reform committees.

In his first committee hearing on Feb. 10, Braswell had a verbal exchange with the leader of a group that wants to get rid of the photo- enforcement systems on state highways.

Shawn Dow of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar was testifying on a bill that would make changes to the way photo enforcement operates, including a requirement for speed-limit signs to be posted more than 300 feet before each photo-enforcement camera.

“The citizens are rising up against this. You know it. You really shouldn’t be pushing laws expanding photo radar,” Dow said.

Braswell said the bill wouldn’t expand the photo-enforcement system.

“I take some exception with your black-and-white approach to this for this committee today, and I would ask you to at least understand what we are being asked to do,” Braswell told Dow.

Dow and Braswell exchanged words several more times until Sen. Linda Gray, chairwoman of the committee, put a stop to it.

“We are going to cease with this conversation,” Gray said and thanked Dow for his testimony.

Back in Braswell’s district, other Republican Party officers described him as a fiscal and social conservative who advocates for limited government.

Carrie Rauch, a Republican Party officer in Legislative District 6, said she believes Braswell will “continue in the tradition of former Sen. Gorman as a strong leader for our state who is looking out for the best interests of the citizens of Arizona.”

Horst Kraus, the district party’s secretary, said most voters in the district are conservative, and Braswell wouldn’t have been elected as its chairman if he didn’t fit the profile.

Braswell has also done a good job of managing the two factions in the district, which Kraus described as the “extreme right” and “the Reagan conservatives.”

While Braswell was chairman of the Legislative District 6 Republicans, the number of precinct committeemen grew exponentially. Today, the district has more than 200 committeemen, compared to 2006 when there were fewer than 60.

“Mr. Braswell has managed to very well get himself situated to not be despised by the one or by the other group, and therefore he has been very well-received in running the district,” Kraus said. “He’s a bridge-builder.”

Age: 53
Home state: North Carolina
Moved to Arizona: 1993
Place of residence: Phoenix
Education:Bachelor’s degree in education from Western Carolina University, 1978; master’s degree in education administration from Western Carolina University, 1986
Employment: Held teaching and school administrator positions in Georgia, North Carolina, South Dakota and New Mexico. Founder of TeachMaster Technologies, Inc., which produces educational software and offers consulting services.
Political background: Former president of the governing board of the Glendale Union High School District. Chairman of the District 6 Republican Party.
Family: wife, Rhonda; three daughters.

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