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Pierce gaining more votes for Senate president

Senate president Steve Pierce (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Two Republican senators yesterday pledged to support Sen. Steve Pierce’s bid to remain as Senate leader, joining four others who earlier said they’ll vote for him or are expected to back the sitting president.

Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, and Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, said they’ll back the president, who is likely to face a challenge from Sen. Andy Biggs, the current Senate Majority Leader.

But this new development really hurts the chances of a potential third candidate — Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.

Yarbrough has vied for the presidency before, and he’s considering running again this time.

But many of Yarbrough’s closest allies have now pledged their vote to Pierce, which means the Chandler Republican’s chances have dimmed.

In making their allegiance to Pierce public, Reagan and Driggs joined Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, and Sen. Jerry Lewis, R-Mesa.

Businessman Bob Worsley, who defeated conservative icon Russell Pearce in the primary election, is also expected to throw his weight behind Pierce’s leadership bid.

Yarbrough was candid about his assessment of his chances even before Reagan and Driggs announced their support for Pierce.

When asked about how his efforts are faring, Yarbrough replied, “Not terribly well because lots of my friends appear to be supporting the president for reelection.”

Yarbrough said he’s still “kicking the tires,” but added that it looks like it would take either Pierce or Biggs or both to drop out for his efforts to be fruitful.

But while their declaration of support reinforces the impression that Pierce, a conservative but pragmatic rancher from Prescott, is the early favorite, the race for president remains open.

Several Republicans who are known to be supporters of either Pierce or Biggs face tough general election challenges this November, and their loss or defeat could swing the momentum to either side.

Sen. Frank Antenori, a Republican from Tucson, said the new development doesn’t change the equation for Biggs, whom he is backing.

Like others, Antenori said the leadership race’s outcome depends on the results of the general election.

But bids for leadership also involve much lobbying and horse trading, and there’s a lot of time left to court and switch votes, he said.

Additionally, many of those who pledged their vote to Pierce were expected to support him, Antenori said.

“They all voted for him before. So there’s no surprise there,” Antenori said.

Another development could derail either Pierce’s or Biggs’ campaign to become Senate President — a split Senate.

Republicans are expected to maintain their majority in the Senate next year, but there’s a slight chance that Democrats could take enough seats to split the chamber down the middle, 15-15.

Should that happen, all bets are off.

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