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4 vie for Senate majority whip, leader

The jockeying has begun for Senate leadership positions besides the presidency, the Arizona Capitol Times has learned.

Sen. Al Melvin of Tucson and Sen. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake confirmed they are eyeing the position of Senate majority whip.

And Rep. Rick Murphy of Phoenix, who is running for the Senate, said he is interested in being majority leader in the 30-person chamber. Scott Bundgaard, a former legislator who is running for the Senate, is also interested in the same position, according to the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication to the Capitol Times.

The majority leader and majority whip hold considerable amount of influence, particularly in arriving at and implementing budget decisions.

The Senate president, majority leader, majority whip and president pro tempore usually make up the Senate’s negotiating team on the budget.

Both Melvin and Allen said they would work well with people and want to bring the caucus together.

Murphy, too, said he has a track record of working well with colleagues from up and down the political spectrum.

But how the leadership races would shake out is anyone’s guess, particularly since none of the four lawmakers eyeing the Senate presidency has given any indication of dropping out or settling for less.

The four candidates for president are Sen. Russell Pearce, chairman of the Appropriations Committee; Sen. Steve Pierce, the current majority whip; Rep. John McComish, the current House majority leader, and Rep. Steve Yarbrough, the current House speaker pro tempore.

It’s not unusual for a candidate for president to “settle” for majority leader if he or she can’t get the votes to become president.

But Murphy said that shouldn’t be the case.

“I think majority leader is too important of a position to be a consolation prize,” Murphy said. “I think that we need to have a majority leader who ran for majority leader and wants to be majority leader. If you have somebody who wanted to be Senate president who settles for being majority leader, I mean how effective is that really going to be?”
The Senate leadership team – whoever would comprise it next year – would have its work cut out.

The Legislature faces daunting tasks next session, including solving potentially $700 million of budget deficit in the current fiscal year and finding ways to help reinvigorate the economy.

In addition to existing problems, other challenges lurk just around the corner, such as keeping the Senate Republican caucus together.

There are signs the Republican caucus could become fractured – not along ideological lines but along old versus new membership.

Already, there is some pushback among incumbent Senate members against a current House member becoming Senate president.

More than half of the current Senate won’t be back next year chiefly because of term limits. Meanwhile, 13 House members are running for election to the Senate this year.

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