Pearce defeated Sen. Steve Pierce and Senators-elect Steve Yarbrough and John McComish. All four had been rounding up votes for months in anticipation of the leadership elections. Until now, it wasn’t clear which candidate had the edge, although many sources were saying Yarbrough appeared to have the most support prior to the Nov. 2 elections.
Republicans gained new seats in nearly every facet of Arizona government, sweeping the statewide positions and amassing what appears to be a veto-proof supermajority in the state House and Senate.
Many legislators have said they want fixing the budget and jumpstarting the economy to be the primary focus next year, and they have indicated that going through another contentious round of immigration legislation might be a distraction.
The incoming set of senators also chose Scott Bundgaard, a former legislator, as Majority Leader. Meanwhile, Sen. Steve Pierce remains as the Majority Whip.
Senate President Bob Burns presided over the meeting and left when the incoming president was chosen.
Burns said they went through three or four rounds of voting before a majority settled on Pearce.
Pearce and his leadership team will have their hands full next year.
They will have to fix a budget deficit that grew substantially after the Nov. 2 general election.
Voters rejected two ballot proposals that would have swept money from voter approved programs into the state’s general fund. The failure of the measures punched a $450 million hole in this year’s budget.
Lawmakers will have to decide whether to fix that deficit this year or wait for the new set of lawmakers to take their oath next year before tackling the problem.
Another challenge will be to jumpstart a struggling economy, as revenue collections remain sluggish and economists warn of a slow recovery.
Lawmakers are considering passing a “jobs” bill or an “economic package.”
Pearce joined the Legislature in 2001. He was elected to the Senate two years ago.
He has served as chairman of the Appropriations committees in both chambers.
Pearce has a deep background in law enforcement. He was a chief deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for nearly two decades. He also has served as director for Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division as director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Sen. Russell Pearce, Senate President
Senator-elect Scott Bundgaard, Majority Leader
Sen. Steve Pierce, Majority Whip
Rep. Kirk Adams, House Speaker
Rep. Andy Tobin, Majority Leader
Rep. Debbie Lesko, Majority Whip
Senator-elect David Schapira, Minority Leader
Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, Assistant Minority Leader
Sen. Paula Aboud, Minority Whip
House (has not yet met)