I didn’t talk to a single person who thought a special session was on the table in the days before it actually happened. Did you see the special session coming at all?
You’re always aware that there’s a possibility of a special session. The question is, what triggers a special? Usually a special is triggered by an emergency situation, something that has to happen quickly. My issue with the special is I just don’t see where it got us. I get the concept, I’m just not sure what you get from it . . . I think the perception is there was obstruction going on, which is the furthest thing from the truth. We sent some signals to some of the key players and those people became quickly aware Monday when we were voting on the bonding bill.
That is a clear signal (that I was willing to let Medicaid expansion come to the floor). Clearly, I think that showed we were trying to find a way to make sure the governor got the pieces she wanted and still bring the majority of the party together on the budget at the end of the day. I always promised the executive a vote on Medicaid at the end of the day anyway.
When (Governor) Brewer called special session, you looked really disappointed, even sad, when talking to members on the floor before everything got started. You had scheduled a vote for the expansion bill and budget, and then they got together with the governor to call the special session and basically overrule you. Did you feel betrayed by your caucus members at the time?
Well, half of them didn’t know what was going on, and of course we didn’t get a call (from Gov. Jan Brewer). I felt it was wrong, because when I talked about obstructing, few people could argue I was obstructing when I was the one who had put all the work into legislation, multiple bills. Though it might not have been perfect – what we passed is far from perfect – I think I had a balance. It was always my intent to get a majority of Republicans to support a Republican governor. You could argue on expansion, that’s a high bar, but clearly for a lot of them who couldn’t vote on it, they looked at my plan as an interesting concept to actually save taxpayer money and solve the hidden health care tax. I think what you saw was disappointment that that wasn’t going to be part of the package. Maybe you saw the surprise on my face because it wasn’t in the back of my mind. When you get to a place where you know they can get everything they want on Thursday even if they just hate me entirely, it didn’t seem to make any sense.
Do you wish you did anything different?
Yeah, I do think I would do things differently. . . . I think we should have had more joint meetings after the Senate budget moved. But there were some folks who just weren’t going to move on the budget process. I didn’t realize that until I think it was too late. Probably when the Senate was ready to move we should have been more active in what that looked like.
On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most effective, how would you rate your leadership this year?
I guess the way I would rate it is I got 27 out of 36, which means I’m four away from having a majority (made of) Republicans.
27 out of 36 on what?
On the final budget. I mean there are 36 Republicans, and we had 27 who were moving together (against) the budget. So I guess you could argue if I’m trying to score myself, I came up 4 votes short. I was always four votes short of 31. I don’t lose very many, I don’t think we should have lost this one, I don’t think it was necessary to have done a budget without a majority of Republicans.
What are the first steps you’re going to take to repair the relationships with the Republican caucus and the governor?
Well the first thing, I already went to see the governor two days later, and did what I usually do – beg for my members’ bills. That’s step one. The other step is reaching out to all members. Asking what does this mean going forward? What does the next session look like? What are your priorities? What did you get? What didn’t you get? What did we miss? And there are a lot of those conversations going on.
I’ve heard people say your caucus really respects you, but they don’t fear you like they have past speakers. Do you think fear is a key component to leadership?
Nope, I don’t. I also don’t fear them. My office is open to Republicans and Democrats. They come in and out of here at will to talk about issues that are important to them. I don’t know how you can be operational if people are afraid of you.
You’re in your final year at the House. What do you think your legacy here will be?
Well, I don’t know. I really hadn’t given any thought to a legacy. You get a sense that I’m going to die or something.
Well you’re going to get termed out.
That’s OK, I don’t look at it that way, I just see it as another step. I would imagine what they’ll say was it’s hard to be able to describe what will be eight years in this building under the scenarios that Arizona has now gone through. From the economic crisis to the border wars, I think you could argue that we’ve been in every battle that’s been part of this national scene now for close to a decade. And that we tried to make it better – that will be good enough for me. I always felt this place was about relationships, and I’m glad I don’t put fear into the people.
So talking about the next step, are you interested in running for another office in 2014?
I’ve always wanted to serve the community, but that can come in a lot of different ways. It’s been an honor to serve here in the House. I don’t know that I’m cut out for a secretary of state spot and I don’t see jumping into a race just because there may be availability. I’m not a political climber. I have a business.
I have a family that still loves me. For me, I have to want to stay in some capacity and I have to believe I’m accomplishing something. I think the public doesn’t have a problem with someone just coming home. That’ doesn’t hurt you. Maybe I’ll just go home. I live in a nice place.