In a dramatic turn of events, Senate Minority Leader Landrum Taylor was ousted as minority leader by her party-mates following a closed-door meeting in the Senate today.
Sen. Anna Tovar, D-Phoenix, was elected as the new leader of the Senate’s Democratic caucus.
Senators cast private votes, 8-5, to remove Landrum Taylor and promote Tovar, who served as the minority whip during the 2013 legislative session.
Landrum Taylor and Sens. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, David Bradley, D-Tucson, Olivia Cajero-Bedford, D-Tucson, and Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny stormed out of the caucus room immediately following the vote.
A fractured caucus, with only eight members left in attendance, then picked Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, and Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, as assistant leader and whip, respectively.
Landrum Taylor was dumbfounded and furious about her ousting, telling the Arizona Capitol Times that the vote was “the most blatant, racist, disrespectful move I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Landrum Taylor said there is no valid reason to remove her, since her leadership team had been effective in the last session.
“This is the most arrogant, inconsiderate group of individuals I have been a part of and I will never set foot in that caucus room again,” Landrum Taylor said.
The Democrats had met to elect a replacement for Lopez, D-Tucson, who had resigned her leadership post to focus on a new job in Tucson.
But Landrum Taylor said Gallardo opened up the floor to elect a new leader and nominated Tovar to the position.
“It wasn’t anything personal, it was just about the caucus wanting to go in a different direction,” Gallardo said.
Tovar told the Capitol Times she was sad to hear Landrum Taylor’s comments on race.
“I feel sorry she feels that way, because that is definitely not the case. If you look at me I’m a female and I’m a minority as well, and that was not the issue,” Tovar said.
Lopez said she was deeply disappointed in the decision to oust Landrum Taylor.
“I am appalled. I have never seen anything like this happen. It was driven by purely selfish motives on the part of a few people,” Lopez said. “I believe there was racism at play. I believe there was sexism at play.”
The vote could leave a fracture in the minority caucus that helped shape the outcome of the recent legislative session, teaming with Gov. Jan Brewer and a few Senate Republicans to approve a budget and Medicaid expansion without the support of a GOP majority.
“They said they were here to help the caucus,” Landrum Taylor said, “and as you can see, half of the caucus just walked out.”