A former state Republican Party chairman is challenging Senate Majority Leader John McComish of Phoenix in this year’s primary.
Tom Morrissey, who chaired the state GOP from 2011 to 2012, filed the paperwork to run for the Senate in Legislative District 18 today.
His entry immediately makes the primary contest in LD18 among the races to watch, as it pits a conservative party activist against a pragmatic Republican who voted for the expansion of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. The district includes Ahwatukee and parts of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa.
AHCCCS is the Arizona’s Medicaid program.
Morrissey, who led the state party while Republicans held supermajority control of the Legislature, confirmed that McComish’s vote for Medicaid expansion is among the reasons he’s eyeing the majority leader’s Senate seat.
Morrissey insisted he has nothing personal against McComish, but in a criticism that can only be directed toward the incumbent, he said the state is losing “the concept of representative government.”
The former party officer said he feels McComish failed in two areas – in hearing the district’s outcry against Brewer’s Medicaid plan and in explaining the reasons for his vote.
“I feel that I’m doing my part [by running], and I’m not just sitting and criticizing,” he said.
Morrissey explained that beyond McComish’s vote for Medicaid expansion, he also disapproved of the way the policy was passed in the Legislature, where the governor’s allies refused to answer questions and pushed the expansion plan via a special session.
“I believe if he was truly listening to his constituents, he would have gone down a different path. That is just my personal view, but that is also my motivation,” Morrissey said.
McComish said he’s heard rumors about Morrissey’s plan, but was still somewhat taken aback when the latter actually filed his papers of candidacy.
McComish said after all, they’re friends. He said he supported Morrissey’s past endeavors and the latter was also supportive of his candidacy.
“I’m disappointed because he’s my friend, and he never even called to tell me [he’s running],” McComish said, adding, “Ten years of dedicated service, six in Republican leadership, and 15 or more years of friendship with him, and one vote is going to make a difference? Doesn’t sound like how one friend would treat another.”
McComish had anticipated a tough primary, but he told the Arizona Capitol Times last year he is not worried. He also noted a poll showing that the public supported the governor’s plan, and that a healthy majority of Republicans also backed it.
Most expect McComish to have the financial edge, given his incumbency and his position as Senate Majority leader. The health sector has also been helping its allies in the Legislature fill their campaign war chest.
In the 2012 elections, McComish raised $80,000, was the target of more than $300,000 in negative independent spending, but also benefited from nearly $137,000 worth of support from outside groups.
Reporter Ben Giles contributed to this article