After eight years at the Capitol, House Democratic leader Chad Campbell is going back to private life.
Campbell has seen the state through good times and bad, and in this May 16 interview, he reflected on his time in the House with an air of relief to be leaving, and very little nostalgia.
He vaguely referred to bad legislation of the year, commented on SB1062, viewed as an anti-gay measure, and predicted a Democratic takeover of the House before the decade is done. And although he ruled out a return to the Legislature or a run for Congress, Campbell vowed to return to public life in the near future.
How would you describe the legislative session?
It was a fairly mundane session, except for (SB)1062. That obviously was a game changer. Other than that, it was quick, most of the really crazy bills didn’t go anywhere. Except for 1062, which was vetoed. It was one of the faster sessions that I’ve been a part of, so that was nice.
Do you think it was quick and somewhat uneventful because of SB1062?
I think that 1062 definitely changed the dynamics of the session. But also I think it was quick because we had money. You had one-party rule and a lot of people down here wanted to get out and go campaign. That’s my guess.
And after the bipartisan coalition last year to expand Medicaid coverage, there wasn’t really a follow-up this year.
We didn’t push anything but I would say we killed some things behind the scenes. And for a while there we were together on the budget, but that fell apart. But we did kill some things behind the scenes that people probably don’t realize.
I’ll just leave it at that. We stopped some things from ever coming to the floor. I think that coalition still worked together. I think we all understand the dynamics of how things work here. And I think we have a stronger bond.
You said you were briefly working with a handful of Republicans on the budget. How close did it come to a coalition budget?
Well, we didn’t really have a budget per say, but we had a set of principles that we had agreed on in terms of what we wanted to see money spent on. But I’m not sure it was ever close to being a budget. It was more about trying to stop the Senate budget, the first budget that came out, and we did that. I wish we would have stuck together and worked with the governor and passed a better budget than what ultimately passed, but that’s not my say.
When will Democrats take over the Legislature?
2018 or 2020, that would be my guess. And not the Legislature, we’ll take over the House. We won’t take over Senate until redistricting.
What do you think of term limits?
I’ve never been a fan of term limits. I think it transfers the power from the elected official to lobbyists and staff and I don’t think that’s the appropriate way to govern. The bigger problem, though, is our campaign finance laws, and that’s what needs to be fixed. People don’t want politicians in office for long periods of time because they feel like they get comfortable, they get too cozy with lobbyists and special interests. And they’re probably right, but the problem is not because they’ve been there so long, it’s because of our campaign finance system. We need to fix that problem, that’s how we solve the accountability and corruption problems.
You’ve said in the past that the biggest institutional problem at the Legislature is lack of transparency.
Yeah, and that goes to campaign finance, too. The biggest problem we have with campaign finance is transparency. People think of money in politics as being inherently bad, and I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. It’s the fact that you can’t trace where the money is coming from and hold people accountable for who they take money from and how they spend it. And the same thing with the process. There are far too many backroom deals going down here. Far too many closed door negotiations that I think if the public knew about they would go crazy… I think there needs to be an overhaul of the whole system, and I mean a pretty comprehensive overhaul of the whole system of how we govern in Arizona from top to bottom. And the Legislature needs to be blown up and start all over from scratch, to be honest.
Not a citizen Legislature?
I don’t know, I’m not sure if that’s the answer. But I think when you pay $24,000 a year, you get what you pay for. That’s true in life.
You’ve said that legacies are too grandiose for legislators, but give it a shot. What will your legacy be?
Naw. I’ve got nothing. My Starbucks cup and my attire, hopefully. I mean really, I don’t think about that.
What’s the next office you’ll be running for?
I’m sure I’ll be running either statewide, depending on the dynamics in the state in four to eight years, or there’s a lot of people who want me to go to the local level. The two things I won’t be doing in the near future is this again or running for any federal office.