The Arizona House Republican caucus met today to select the chamber’s next majority leadership team, and as expected, the caucus selected Rep. J.D. Mesnard to run the chamber.
The 34 Republicans who were leading in their House races as of this morning selected Mesnard as speaker of the House by an acclamation vote.
That’s a smaller Republican caucus than currently occupies the chamber, although several House races are still too close to call, and Republicans could still pick up another seat.
According to multiple sources in the room, Republican Rep. Jeff Weninger, Mesnard’s seatmate, made the motion to nominate Mesnard. Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth seconded that motion, and Republican Rep. T.J. Shope made a motion to unanimously approve of his nomination, which was approved.
Republican Rep. John Allen won the four-way race for Majority Leader in the first round of balloting, beating out Republican Reps. David Livingston, Bob Thorpe and Jill Norgaard.
The caucus chose Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend as their new whip, giving her a victory over Republican Rep. Anthony Kern, who didn’t know the final vote, but said it was close.
“Someone flipped. I thought I had it,” Kern said after the vote.
Republicans held the secret-ballot closed-door election in the Old Capitol building. The House building is undergoing another round of extensive renovations by current House Speaker David Gowan, this time to add layers of security to the building, including metal detectors, bulletproof glass, gun lockers and a Kevlar wall. Gowan’s staff projected the project will cost $290,000.
As the speaker-elect, Mesnard has many important decisions ahead of him, including which lawmakers should be appointed to lead and serve on which House committees. Lawmakers filled out forms requesting appointments to specific committees, such as the powerful House Appropriations Committee, before they left the building.
But Mesnard announced he had already made up his mind on the first big decision facing the new speaker: who to hire as his chief of staff.
Mesnard said he has offered the job to Michael Hunter, the Goldwater Institute’s vice president for state and fiscal affairs, and a former high level staffer in Jan Brewer’s gubernatorial administration. Hunter also spent four years as a budget policy advisor in the Senate before joining Brewer’s team in 2010.
Mesnard had previously promised he would let go of several high-level House staffers hired during the Gowan administration, including Chief of Staff Tami Stowe (who had planned to retire), deputy chief of Staff Leslie Sorensen, and House general counsel Rob Ellman.