Ed Bunch is one of the few completely unencumbered Arizona senators.
He hasn’t been at the Capitol long enough to feel the full weight of special interest groups bearing down on him. He made it clear that he would step down from the District 7 seat after filling in the rest of Jim Waring’s term. He was appointed to the Legislature too late to file any bills. And he didn’t make any campaign promises – well, except the one about not seeking election.
Bunch, therefore, can vote as he sees fit. No agendas. No alliances. No fundraising.
“I won’t have to worry about going off and running – collecting signatures, and money and all of those things that go along with that,” he said.
The biggest challenges for Bunch, as with any first-time lawmaker, will be to learn the technical aspects of the legislative process and to study all the bills he’ll have to vote on this year.
Bunch, an attorney by profession, said he feels like it’s his first year in law school, where the volume of material appears overwhelming.
“Being a lawyer, I want to read the bills,” he said. “I mean, I want to know what they are saying, but I also want to know what they are not saying.”
Soon, Bunch will have to weigh in on the state’s biggest problems – a weak economy, an unbalanced budget and state agencies and programs that are barely surviving because of spending cuts. That’s not even mentioning the partisan feuds and the intra-party friction he will have to deal with.
So far, though, he has kept a low profile. He hasn’t spoken during caucus meetings, and he has said very little in committee hearings.
During his first hearing in the Finance Committee on Feb. 10, which was also his first day in the Legislature, he asked for more time before casting his vote on a measure that would limit secondary property taxes starting in 2010.
“I’ve been a senator for about 45 minutes now,” he said. A few minutes later, he voted “yes.”
Bunch became the 30th senator in the Arizona Legislature on Feb. 10 when the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chose him to succeed Waring as the senator from Legislative District 7.
The supervisors chose Bunch from among three nominees because Bunch had said he didn’t intend to run for election to a full term. He said he wanted to serve the state, do what is right, and then get out.
“I have another life, and I am very happy with my other life,” he said. “But I also live in public service, and so I’m happy to do this for a while and, you know, move on.”
Supervisor Andy Kunasek said that was one of the main reasons the board appointed Bunch. Kunasek said all three of the nominees – including Rep. Nancy Barto and Rep. Ray Barnes – were qualified, but only Bunch said he didn’t want to keep the Senate seat.
For now, Senate Republicans are at full strength once again. The 18- member caucus was down to 16 for a couple of weeks after Waring and Pamela Gorman stepped down to run for Congress. Bunch and Sen. David Braswell, who was appointed on Feb. 8, will fill in as replacements for the rest of this year.
Bunch said what attracted him to the Republican Party are its core values of limited government, strong national defense and the free market. He said government programs should help only those who desperately need them.
“We can’t be all things to all people. I am a big believer in helping those who can’t help themselves,” he said. “But I have a real problem with helping people who won’t help themselves.”
Bunch was born in Texas. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother moved to northern California and his father to Arizona.
He grew up in both states until 1975, when he began attending Arizona State University. He initially studied political science, but later shifted to the business program because he felt his political science classes were too theoretical. He later attended ASU’s law school.
He is a co-owner of B. Bunch Co., which manufactures printing equipment that is used throughout the world.
He said the state, on financial matters, should follow the example of business owners. When there is more money than needed, save it. When there is less money, stop spending.
“When you don’t have money, you stop spending,” he said. “And, hopefully, if you are a good businessman, you stop spending before it becomes apparent that you don’t have money or the money is not coming in.”
Still, Bunch said he will keep an open mind when trying to solve the state’s budget woes.
“Taking a granite-solid position on things sometimes can be detrimental because situations change,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m saying this because I am absolutely a tax-cutter. I believe that a government that governs least is the best government. I am conservative in my principles. That said, sometimes when you have a crisis, you just have to do the right thing… even when it is the hard thing.”
Bunch’s Republican colleagues in District 7 backed up Bunch’s conservative credentials. Waring described him as a “good, solid conservative” who will do a good job of representing the district as long as he trusts his instincts.
West Kenyon, chairman of the District 7 Republicans, said one of Bunch’s best qualities is his ability to communicate effectively with people.
“He listens,” Kenyon said.
Lynn Weaver, a Republican activist from the district, said it speaks to Bunch’s character that he is willing to give up power after it is handed to him.
“I think we can bank on him,” Weaver said.
Last month, when it became clear Republicans in the district would have to select a replacement for Waring, Bunch said he was working behind the scenes to find someone who would promise not to run for election after getting appointed to the Senate seat. Failing to find such a person, he decided to throw his hat in the ring himself.
Even though he’s not running this year, Bunch said nothing precludes him from taking a second look at the job in 2012. But there was a proviso: “I would have to actually enjoy this,” he said.
Home state: Born in Texas, grew up northern California and Arizona
Moved to Arizona: 1975
Place of residence: Scottsdale
Education: Business degree from Arizona State University, law degree from Arizona State University
Political background: First vice-chairman of the Legislative District 7 Republican Party
Family: Wife, Phyllis; two children, Ashley and Zach