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After the primary, new lawmakers headed to 19 districts

Newcomers will abound when the Arizona Legislature convenes in January.

The 2013 session will feature new faces from 19 districts where seats are guaranteed to be filled by one or more new lawmakers who weren’t in the Legislature this year.

Those districts feature candidates who are running unopposed or matchups between candidates who have never been elected or who have been away from the Legislature in recent years. The exact number of new lawmakers in those 19 districts will depend on the general election in November.

Three new Republicans elected in the Aug. 28 primary face no opposition in November.  Additionally, newcomers running in seven GOP strongholds could win in November.

Similarly, seven new Democrats were elected in the primary from five districts. Nine more newcomers could win in November in four primarily Democratic districts.

Candidates unopposed in the general election and potential newcomers from both parties are a mix of political rookies, people whose political involvement was at the precinct level or in campaigns for other candidates, former lawmakers and politicians who have held other offices.

Constantin Querard, a Republican political consultant, said the Republicans without opposition and the party’s newcomers will maintain the conservative edge in the House, but the Senate will become more moderate.

“The Senate took a step to the left, but bad ideas have to pass both houses so I’ll be counting on the House to stand tall this time,” Querard said.

Mario Diaz, a Democrat consultant, said the Democrats are expecting to at least gain a seat in the Senate, giving them 10, and could possibly fill 13.

He said he is excited about his party’s lineup of unopposed Democrats and likely newcomers.

Diaz said most of them have groomed themselves for the job by participating behind the scenes in politics or taking leadership positions in the party.

He singled out Charlene Fernandez, a former Democratic chair for Yuma County who also worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, as an example of the type of new candidates that ran this year.

“These people are independent minded, with experience,” Diaz said. 

“These are not political hacks.”

Fernandez and Lisa Otondo, both of Yuma, are newcomers elected to the House in Legislative District 4 in the primary. Fernandez said Yuma has a tradition of sending quality candidates from both parties.

“We have a wonderful track record and big shoes to fill,” she said.

One of the likely Republican newcomers in the Senate is Bob Worsley, a Mesa businessman who knocked off former Senate President Russell Pearce in the Legislative District 25 Republican primary. Pearce is one of Querard’s clients.

Worsley will be going up against Democrat Greg Gadek, a Mesa salesman, in a district that has twice as many Republican voters as Democrats.

Legislative District 5 in northwestern Arizona, which has a GOP voter advantage of 40 percent to 22 percent Democrat, will choose its senator between potential newcomers Kelli Ward, a Lake Havasu City Republican, and Democrat Beth Weisser, of Golden Valley. Ward, a physician, beat Rep. Nancy McClain, in the primary by 17 points.

The only other Senate race that will produce a guaranteed newcomer is in Legislative District 8, where Democrat Barbara McGuire, a former House member from Kearny who served from 2007 to 2010, will go against Joe Ortiz, a Casa Grande Republican. Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in the district.

The district will also vote in a newcomer to the House in either Democrats Ernest Bustamante, of Mammoth, or Emily Verdugo, of Coolidge, or T.J. Shope, a Coolidge Republican.

No matter their stripes, the new lawmakers are going to bring enthusiasm, new ideas and a certain amount of naiveté to the Legislature, said Stan Barnes, a Republican consultant.

“There’s nothing quite able to prepare even the wisest, most ambitious person for the political dynamic of being in a legislative body that is as big as 60 House members or 30 senators,” Barnes said.

Barnes, who has been involved in every legislative election since 1988, said veteran lawmakers typically don’t serve as mentors today to freshman to the extent that they did in the past, so the newcomers aren’t taught the traditions, nuances and subtleties of working in the body, which has an impact on the rhythm and output of the Legislature.

“New guys coming in think they know everything — that’s the way it’s always been — and they used to be told what they didn’t know,” Barnes said. “Now no one is there to tell them that anymore.”

 Barnes said term limits and the faster pace of the modern era have made the mentoring almost non-existent.

 Diaz said mentoring is important, but there is something to be said for a fresh start.

“History is good, but in this case in politics, sometimes it’s best not to have historical knowledge about the past relationships between two parties,” Diaz said.


 Fresh Faces

 Newcomers are guaranteed to be elected in the following districts. 

Most have never held legislative office, except for three who are not members of the current Legislature.



LD5 Beth Weisser (D) Kelli Ward (R)

LD8 Barbara McGuire (D)* Joe Ortiz (R)

LD25 Greg Gadek (D) Bob Worsley (R)



LD2 Andrea Dalessandro (D) Rosanna Gabaldon (D) Chris Ackerley (R)

LD4 Charlene Fernandez (D)** Lisa Otondo (D)**

LD5 Pamela Durbin (D) Sonny Borrelli (R)

LD6 Doug Ballard (D) Angela LeFevre (D) Robert Thorpe (R)

LD7 Jamescita Peshlakai (D)**

LD8 Ernest Bustamante (D) Emily Verdugo (D) T.J. Shope (R)

LD9 Mohur Sarah Sidhwa (D) Victoria Steele (D) Ethan Orr (R)

LD11 Dave Joseph (D) Adam Kwasman (R)

LD12 Warren Petersen (R)**

LD13 Darin Mitchell (R)**

LD15 Patricia Flickner (D) John Allen (R)*

LD16 Matthew Cerra (D) Doug Coleman (R) Kelly Townsend (R)

LD19 Mark Cardenas (D)** Lupe Contreras (D)**

LD20 Tonya Norwood (D) Jackie Thrasher (D)* Paul Boyer (R)

LD22 David Livingston (R)**

LD26 Juan Mendez (D) Andrew Sherwood (D) Raymond Speakman (R) Mary Lou Taylor (R)

LD29 Lydia Hernandez (D)**

LD30 Jonathan Larkin (D)**


*Has served in Legislature before 2010.

**Won primary, no general election opposition.


Nearly one-third of the legislative candidates who won their primary elections Aug. 28 can start prepping for next session. That’s because they don’t have a general election opponent.

And in some cases, they didn’t even have a primary opponent.

Here’s a list of the 29 legislative candidates who will be sworn into office next year, barring an unusual circumstance that would keep them from assuming the office:



LD1 – Karen Fann, Andy Tobin

LD4 – Charlene Fernandez, Lisa Otondo

LD7 – Albert Hale, Jamescita Peshlakai

LD12 – Eddie Farnsworth, Warren Petersen

LD13 – Darin Mitchell, Steve Montenegro

LD19 – Mark Cardenas, Lupe Chavira Contreras

LD22 – David Livingston, Phil Lovas

LD23 – John Kavanagh, Michelle Ugenti

LD30 – Jonathan Larkin, Debbie McCune Davis



LD1 – Steve Pierce

LD2 – Linda Lopez

LD3 – Olivia Cajero Bedford

LD4 – Lynne Pancrazi

LD7 – Jack Jackson, Jr.

LD12 – Andy Biggs

LD19 – Anna Tovar

LD22 – Judy Burges

LD23 – Michele Reagan

LD29 – Steve Gallardo

LD30 – Robert Meza

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