Former Arizona House speaker David Gowan is eying a comeback.
The Sierra Vista Republican filed 846 nominating petitions to run for the state Senate in Legislative District 14, easily eclipsing the 440 petitions required to qualify for the ballot.
Gowan made history when he last served: he was the first speaker from southern Arizona in 28 years when he assumed leadership in 2015. But his last stint at the Capitol was plagued by reports of his misuse of state fleet vehicles, which was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office. He was never criminally charged, and nearly a year ago, Gowan described errors made by his administration as “unintentional.”
On Wednesday, Gowan flat out dismissed those same reports, and said he’d been exonerated by Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
“It’s already been settled. That’s done, it was proven not, so that’s the good thing,” he said. As for the Arizona Capitol Times’ previous reporting on his travel, “President Trump gave us a great thing: fake news.”
In fact, the attorney general’s report found that there was “substantial disregard for determining whether state funds for per diem, mileage, and official travel were paid pursuant to proper authority” under Gowan’s leadership, but determined the violations could not be criminally prosecuted because “it appears that the violations were not undertaken knowingly or intentionally but were instead attributable to negligence.”
Gowan repaid the state $12,000 that he had wrongfully received as reimbursement for trips he had taken in state vehicles, but reported as taking in his own vehicle, and for per diem pay for days he had claimed to work, but didn’t. The Attorney General’s Office looked into whether Gowan used state resources to travel around the 1st Congressional District, which Gowan was running for while in office in 2016.
Brnovich called Gowan’s reimbursements for travel and per-diem “troublesome.”
As speaker, Gowan also briefly banned reporters from the House floor who refused to undergo background checks and declared that anyone convicted of certain specific crimes would never be allowed access.
That included not only serious felonies but also the crime of trespass — the Class 2 misdemeanor which would have disqualified Hank Stephenson, then a Capitol Times reporter who discovered Gowan’s misuse of state resources.
Gowan will face Rep. Drew John, R-Safford, in the primary campaign for an open Senate seat. The seat will be vacated by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Heber, who is termed out and running instead for the House.
Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.