The Democrats in the Legislature haven’t been able to shape major policy, much less get mundane bills passed, since Janet Napolitano left the governor’s seat to Jan Brewer in 2009.
Campbell refuses to stand by to be steamrolled, however.
An information technology consultant, Campbell was elected to leadership in just his second term in the House.
In a Jan. 4 interview with the Arizona Capitol Times, Campbell discussed how his party will act as a watchdog and wait for the opportunity to step in when Republicans fight among themselves.
What are your thoughts on whether the Democrats will be invited to the table this session?
I would hope we were invited to the table during session, especially on the big issues — the budget, the jobs packages that we’re talking about down here, but I’m not going to be holding my breath. It’s up to the Republicans if they want to work with us and craft a bi-partisan solution to some of the big issues we’re facing and it’s up to the Governor’s Office if she wants to work with us and bring us into the conversation, but past experience does not give me much optimism.
So what are you going to do as a lawmaker down here if you’re not relevant?
I’m not saying we’re not going to be relevant. We’re very relevant. I think there are many opportunities where we’ll be working with various legislators on the other side. Maybe not leadership, but I think there’s going to be a lot of issues that are going to come up where you’re going to see divisions in their caucus, you’re going to see the governor and the Republicans are disagreeing, so it’s going to be a very fluid environment down here and I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for temporary coalitions between both parties and various members. And also, I think the biggest thing for us is let the public know what’s going on down here, making sure that the process is transparent, making sure that we’re holding all of the elected officials accountable for their actions.
You mentioned temporary coalitions. Can you be more specific on what kind of issues that would occur?
No, I really can’t. At this point I have no idea what is going to end up coming out of this session, but I think that you have a very wide range of people within the Republican caucus and a lot of differing views on a lot of different issues. I think there will be many opportunities to work together with many Republicans on the other side. At least I’m hopeful. That may not be with the leadership of the party, but with the rank and file Republicans and possibly the Governor’s Office.
Politically speaking, wouldn’t it be much better, though, if they did not invite you? On the budget, for example, at the end of two years when election time comes you can wash your hands off and say, “We had no part in this.”
Well, I don’t think that way. The problem with that particular sentiment is if we think that way, we’re not going to get anything accomplished. We are at a place and time in this state where we can no longer keep playing these games that we keep playing. The budget crisis — not just the budget crisis for the next year or two, but the long-term budget crisis — we are at a point where if we cannot solve it within the next couple of years, we are going to head down a path that may take us decades to recover and I’ve been saying this for two years and it was reinforced again the other day, but we have to sit down and be serious about comprehensive tax reform, we have to sit down and be serious about structurally reforming how we bring in revenue and how we spend money in this state. We cannot keep using gimmicks, we cannot keep using short term fixes, we cannot keep burying our head in the sand and saying, “Oh the economy is going to get better, just wait it out and it will turn around.” We have to diversify our economy, we have to fix our tax system, and make sure we are competitive as we head into the next decade.
How is your relationship with House Speaker Kirk Adams?
We have many disagreements on policy issues, but I think on a personal level we get along pretty well. I think he would say the same thing, I can’t speak for him. But I work with him well, and I hope we continue that relationship. Obviously, for me I have a different role now. I was the whip for the last two years, so I didn’t interact with Kirk as much on a one-on-one basis as David (Lujan) did or some of the other leadership members, and so my role will be much more direct with Kirk over the next two years, and I hope that we can maintain a positive relationship even when we’re disagreeing, which will happen a lot.
You get along personally, but as far as politically, is there an open door for you?
He and I get along well, and I hope that we can actually build an open line of communication with each other, but we really haven’t started yet so I can’t say how it’s going to be, but I hope that we have that open door, and I hope that we can talk on a regular basis, and I’ve talked to the speaker about that, and he seems responsive to that, so hopefully that will be established.
Which issues do you see that will most likely cause a fracture in the majority caucus?
I think you’re going to have issues over immigration. I think you’re already seeing some of that. I think you’re going to have issues over the budget and jobs. I hear a lot of talk about them having the veto-proof Legislature and the super-majority. Keeping 40 votes together is easier said than done and keeping 21 votes together is easier said than done, so I think you’re going to have a lot of disagreements within the Republican caucus.
How can you take advantage of that?
For us the key is trying to find the Republicans, be it leadership or non-leadership, that are willing to work with us on the issues where we agree and are willing to cross party lines and put politics aside and team up with Democrats and hopefully we’ll have some help from the Governor’s Office, too.
What’s your most realistic best case scenario at the end of this session for the Democrats?
We have immense potential to shape how things are done down here, and I think that is through our conversation with the public. Again, if we can make sure the public knows what is going on down here, especially throughout the budget process, which is going to be such a critical piece of everything this year, and the public is informed and they’re paying attention and they’re really following individually their elected legislators for their own district, that’s a win for us.
What are the Democrats’ non-budget priorities?
Right now the priority for this caucus is budget. I mean, it’s jobs and the economy, that’s the number one priority. Everything is related to that. Education is a big priority for us obviously and not just funding, but implementing some serious reforms to the education system is very important. I think we all agree on that. We all disagree somewhat on what needs to be done, but we all agree on that in terms of reforms are needed. And public safety is a big issue. In this past year, we’ve seen a lot of issues in our prison system that concern many of us, especially the private prison system. Everything is related to the budget right now, and I don’t think you can avoid that elephant in the room.
Do you think you can have some success with some of these?
Yeah, I think so. I think there’s a lot of issues that people might be surprised where Democrats and Republicans agree, especially in some of the tax reform areas. I think conceptually speaking, both conservatives on the Republican side and the Democrats both would agree that we have too many loopholes in the tax code, we are picking winners and losers, and that’s not government’s job.