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Home / 2013 Session Wrap / Up Close with Gov. Jan Brewer

Up Close with Gov. Jan Brewer

Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

When the Republican-dominated Legislature stood firm against Gov. Jan Brewer this year, she pushed back like never before.

After months of fighting, Brewer and her allies in the Legislature took drastic actions. The Republican governor wielded her executive power more aggressively than ever before. And ultimately, she won after vetoing bills, calling an 11th hour special session and using the threat of ousting the House speaker and Senate president as leverage.

You’re no stranger to tough legislative battles. How does this year compare to the 2009-10 tax hike fight?

Each challenge is different, and I was dealing with different people.

So, you know, both of them were very, very challenging. This one might have gotten a little bit more caustic, if you will, with some of the comments. But I’ve faced challenges my whole life, so I kind of roll through them and just always do what I believe is right.

In the end, if you have difficult times in the Legislature, you all come back together philosophically, particularly in my party. We believe in a Republican platform. We know that we need to be strong and we need to stick together.

At the time of the special session and the near-ouster of Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin, you seemed like you were just steps away from victory. Why did you feel the need to do that and why did it come to that point?

I think there was somewhat of miscommunications on exactly when things were going to take place and timeframes. And I felt, as the coalition felt, that we were being delayed, delayed, delayed. And the longer you delay, the tougher it gets.

And so after he (Tobin) adjourned to Thursday when we were expecting him to adjourn until Wednesday, I think that everybody said, ‘What are we going to do? This is just another tactic to delay all this.’ I said, ‘Well, I could call you into special session,’ and they agreed.

And I said, ‘Well, we’ve got to have a plan how we’re going to do this.’ And they agreed.

There were no chinks in the armor and it was executed perfectly and we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. So I was pleased.

As a former legislator, you’ve always talked about respecting the separation of powers and leaving their sandbox to them.

I do.

Considering that, how difficult a decision was it to plan the ouster of Tobin and Biggs?

Let’s make it perfectly clear — we did not plan the ouster of Tobin and Biggs. We called them into special session and it played out probably the way we all assumed it would play out. We knew that Andy (Biggs) had sort of stood down when the bill came out of the Senate … and we assumed that probably if Mr. Tobin would agree that this was going to happen — I mean, he could count votes just as good as anybody else — that they would not oust him.

We had a goal. It was our budget and it was Medicaid. So he stood down, so he didn’t get ousted. I think it would’ve happened if he hadn’t, but he can count. He’s a smart man. He can count. So it moved forward, I think, primarily exactly as we had counted on.

But considering your respect for that separation of powers, was it difficult to even have that as a contingency plan to use as leverage?

Well, it had gotten so contentious and delayed … and (there was such a) lack of communication that there was no other choice. Promises, promises. You’ve got to move it. And pretty soon, as the governor of the state of Arizona, I have that responsibility. And I did it.

How will your relationship with Biggs and Tobin be next year?

I like them both. I think they’re both very talented and I think that, given a week or two, I think that some of those fences have already been mended, to tell you the truth. I’ve been in communication, and I think that they want the same thing that I want for the state of Arizona, and that’s to make it a better place to live. And we will come back together and head into the next session.

So you don’t expect that animosity from anti-expansion Republicans to carry over next session?

No, I don’t. I’ll tell you why, too. Because those of us that have been in the sausage-making business, we know that it gets rough and tumble, and then you come back, you regroup and you move forward.

How about your relationship with the Democrats. You worked more closely with them this year than you ever have during your governorship. Will that relationship and that coalition last?

I don’t know if the coalition is going to last. But I have always been open to the Democrats. I would always meet with them. I would always talk to them. I’ve had lots of Democrat friends in the Legislature during the time that I’ve been elected and served in that body.

I don’t know philosophically if there’s going to be a lot of issues we’re going to agree on. But I certainly would work with them if they were on the same page with us. Why not? They’re duly elected officials in the Legislature.

It seems like you wielded your executive power more strongly this year.  Do you feel that’s the case?

I had to.

Do you feel that you’ve fractured the Republican Party, as your critics allege?

Do I feel as if I fractured the party? No. I think that the halls of the Legislature is the arena for great debate. I’m a Republican, too, you know.

When you started the session and planned your strategy on Medicaid, how did you think it would happen? Did you think it would take that long or be that contentious?

I am a very determined person. And once I made up my mind in regards to my budget, and that would include Medicaid, then I was going to move forward. I was going to do what I believed was right, because that’s what I was elected to do.

I was going to try to educate. I was going to try to explain. I was going to try to make people very, very informed so they would have all the good information. Unfortunately, they didn’t see it the same way that I did, so it became more difficult.

But I had a plan. And generally, when you sit in a place of authority, whether it be the Governor’s Office or you sit as a CEO or you sit as a legislator or you run a household, you have a plan. And so I tried not to get veered off of where I was headed and what I was going to do, and I tried to do it in a manner that would garner me respect for at least what I believed in. And I think that it worked and that I was successful.

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