Tom Boone, R-Peoria
Tom Boone got a lot of mileage out of his eight years at the Capitol. A former school district assistant superintendent, the Peoria Republican served as majority leader and was one half of the chairmen of one of the weirder set ups in legislative history.
He served as majority leader in 2007 and 2008, when he piloted the caucus under House Speaker Jim Weiers. The term prior, he was one of the two Appropriations Committee chairs. In a situation that hadn’t been seen before, and may not ever be seen again, there were two House Appropriations committees: Boone headed up Appropriations B, while Russell Pearce led Appropriations P.
A strong advocate of renewable energy, Boone pushed numerous bills on solar energy and helped pave the way for ethanol fuel to be sold more readily at Arizona gas stations. Through it all, he said the best part of being a lawmaker was that it forces everyone to learn.
“You learn more about everything, because everything is covered by state law in some way. I learned more in the last eight years than I did in the 50-plus years before that,” he said.
Jack Brown, D-St. Johns
A link to Arizona’s long and colorful history will be lost when Jack Brown, the 82-year-old cowboy from St. John’s, rides off into the sunset at the end of the year. After 36 years of legislative service spread out over five decades, Brown is a wealth of institutional knowledge and congeniality whose void will be noticeable come January.
Known for his quiet demeanor and gentlemanly attitude, Brown worked best behind the scenes in recent years. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he led the Democrats in the Senate and was a firm voice for the minority party as he worked with Republicans to shape policy.
He flashed his ability to rally the troops and corral votes earlier this year when he lassoed a dozen Democratic votes on the sales tax ballot referral – votes that were critical to the measure’s passage.
“We went to work. I got 12 votes, working with the governor’s people and others. That’s the one major thing we did this year on a bipartisan basis,” he said.
Phil Lopes, D-Tucson
Nobody expected the passionate bow-tied Democrat from Tucson to win the caucus election, but Phil Lopes pulled off the upset in November 2004 when he became minority leader during his second term.
Lopes, a former administrator at the Department of Health Services, served as leader for two terms, sparring with then-House Speaker Jim Weiers.
A fiery orator, Lopes spoke out most often on health issues that mattered to him. Not only did he spend his working life in the state agency devoted to health care, but he was among the early Peace Corps volunteers who were dispatched across the world and worked to improve the lives and health of the poor.
Reflecting on his time as a lawmaker, Lopes said he felt powerless during the last couple of years after Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano departed in early 2009.
“As soon as we didn’t have the Governor’s Office, it became very apparent how little influence we (Democrats) have,” he said. “All you get is a vote, an office and an assistant. Everything else has to be given to you by the majority.”
Lucy Mason, R-Prescott
Lucy Mason said the American legislative process is the best one in the world because it allows compromise among divergent interests from across the state.
Mason also is one of only three House Republicans still serving in the Legislature who bucked leadership in 2004 to work with Democrats and Senate Republicans to craft a budget. Some of the others retired or were forced out of office because of term limits, but more than half of them were defeated by conservative Republicans who attacked them for that budget vote.
Mason, though, said her job is to represent the people of her district, not the interests of any particular political ideology. Lawmakers who stick to rigid ideologies prevent the process, which Mason said is based on the art of compromise, from working properly.
“One thing I always say is, ‘Can we please just take ourselves 50 percent less seriously and focus on the issue?’” she said. “Now, we all have strong egos, or we wouldn’t be here, so it’s a little difficult to do that, but it’s really worth it. It feels like magic when you bring people who are really adamantly opposed to the table and you find the solutions.”
Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix
The south Phoenix legislative seat might be filled next year by a Miranda, but it certainly won’t be Ben Miranda, who is leaving the Legislature due to term limits. Instead, he will focus on helping his wife, Catherine, become his successor.
After that, he said he plans to “rest and rest and rest,” the Democrat said.
Miranda was a ferocious opponent of virtually every immigration-related measure pushed by Republicans in the past eight years. A veteran of the fight to uphold the civil rights of Hispanics, Miranda cut his teeth under the legendary César Chávez and ultimately rose to become Chávez’s right-hand man at the United Farm Workers until the civil rights leader’s death in 1993.
But despite the passions that every lawmaker has, Miranda said future state lawmakers need to remember that the core spirit of politics and policymaking is to meet in the middle.
“People need to be patient and stick to your principles, but understand that politics is a process of compromise,” he said.
Warde Nichols, R-Gilbert
When he first ran for the House of Representatives in 2002, Gilbert Republican Warde Nichols figured he would be at the Capitol for four years at the most. But the small-business owner, who owned a pool-maintenance company, got drawn in by the process and the ability to influence it more as he gained experience.
His first four years were spent as a firebrand on social issues, as he took a leadership role on legislative efforts to limit the state’s definition of marriage to include only unions between a union between a man and a woman, effectively banning gay marriages in the state.
But in the last four years – especially as the state’s budget crisis worsened – he has become known for his outside-the-box approach to securing money for projects ranging from university athletic stadiums to state parks.
Through it all, Nichols said he was able to fight for the things he believed in most.
“At the end of the day, I’m walking away intact with my principles and values. I stayed true to them and didn’t bend for political expediency,” he said.