As lawmakers start the new year, one topic will hang over their heads and color the legislative session more than any other. It’s not Medicaid or Child Protective Services or Common Core. It’s the 2014 elections.
Lawmakers, lobbyists and political observers all speculate that, like most election-year legislative sessions, the 2014 session will be a short one. Lawmakers are eager to adjourn so they can begin collecting campaign contributions from lobbyists and hit the campaign trail full time.
But having an election looming doesn’t just affect the duration of the session. It also influences what legislation lawmakers introduce and their personal relationships with their colleagues.
When lawmakers run against each other for higher office, allies quickly turn into opponents.
And relationships become strained when lawmakers are bashing their opponent on the campaign trail one day, and asking for their support on legislation at the Capitol the next day.
While most lawmakers will deny that running for another office affects the way they behave in their current job, actions speak louder than words. And many lawmakers seize opportunities that arise at the Capitol to embarrass or discredit their opponents — be it through introducing legislation that they know their opponent won’t support, or monitoring what their fellow lawmaker and campaign opponent says and does at the Capitol for inclusion in future campaign mailers.
And it’s not just Republicans versus Democrats. In many cases, Republicans are running against Republicans in primary elections, or Democrats against Democrats. In two races, Democrats are recruiting Democratic candidates to run against their Democratic colleagues who broke ranks on previous votes or negotiations.
The most high profile lawmaker-on-lawmaker campaign will be the GOP primary for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, where House Speaker Andy Tobin and freshman Rep. Adam Kwasman will go head-to-head for the opportunity to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in November.
As speaker of the House, Tobin can easily ensure that all of Kwasman’s legislation will go to unfavorable committees, or never reach a vote on the floor of the House, thus limiting his legislative accomplishments to tout on the campaign trail.
Tobin said he doesn’t plan to treat Kwasman any differently than he would any other Republican lawmaker. But to make a point, Kwasman is already promising to introduce legislation that he knows Tobin doesn’t support, but Republican primary voters do support.
Tobin kept a trio of anti-union bills from ever reaching the floor of the House last year, angering many conservatives who wanted to take stronger steps to curb unions in Arizona.
Several lawmakers who sponsored the anti-union bills have said they will not reintroduce them again this year, leading Kwasman to say he would take up the fight if no one else does. That move will, at a minimum, give him another opportunity to hit Tobin on the campaign trail over not supporting the anti-union legislation.
Republican political consultant Barrett Marson, who is not working for Tobin’s or Kwasman’s campaigns, said Kwasman’s tactic probably won’t be effective on the campaign trail, but he could end up being an annoyance for Tobin.
“In reality, Kwasman can’t do much to monkey up the session. Can he be a thorn in someone’s side? Sure. But can he be a real factor in the session? No,” Marson said.
The battle for secretary of state
Republican Rep. Justin Pierce of Mesa and Republican Sen. Michele Reagan of Scottsdale are vying for the job of top election official in the state, and will face each other in the GOP primary for secretary of state.
Reagan told the Arizona Capitol Times that she is pushing for a repeal of her elections overhaul law from last year, HB2305, which remains on hold because opponents gathered more than 110,000 signatures to force a referendum on the law this November.
Reagan having to repeal a law she drafted would make good campaign fodder for Pierce. But he said while he hasn’t decided how he would vote on a repeal of HB2305, it probably won’t be a main line of attack against her in the primary.
“I voted for it here (too), so it wouldn’t make any sense for me to say, ‘Oh, this is such a terrible bill, we had to repeal it.’ I was one of those who voted for it because I felt like the good outweighed the bad,” Pierce said.
He acknowledged that the dual role of candidate and lawmaker could create complications for other people, but said he and Reagan can work together without problems.
Battling for legislative seats
In the West Valley’s LD21, Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko is challenging Republican Sen. Rick Murphy, for his Senate seat.
Lesko said people from her district and elsewhere urged her to run amid fears that Murphy’s personal woes — the Peoria Republican remains under investigation by Child Protective Services for allegations that he sexually abused two children in his care — could cost Republicans the Senate seat if he continues to run. A criminal investigation involving Murphy was dropped without charges being filed, and he has been critical of CPS’ handling of the case.
Murphy isn’t bowing out and called Lesko’s move a “coldly ambitious calculation… for personal gain.” Don’t expect the two, who formerly ran as a campaign team, to co-sponsor legislation this year.
And it’s not just Republican-on-Republican confrontations. Assistant House Minority Leader Ruben Gallego has recruited two candidates to run against two of his fellow Latino Democrats, who he views as not solidly with the Democratic caucus.
Gallego has recruited political newcomer Aaron Marquez to challenge his seatmate, Rep. Catherine Miranda, for their Phoenix district’s Senate seat. He also recruited Avondale resident Angela Cotera to run against Democratic Rep. Lupe Contreras in LD19.
Gallego said he actively looked for candidates to run against Miranda and Contreras because they weren’t toeing the party line, and there were rumors of them working with GOP leadership on a budget.
Contreras said that with Gallego actively working against him, it’s going to be tough for the two of them to get along or work together.
“It’s going to have an impact on the caucus,” Contreras said.