House poised for new faces, new leaders

House poised for new faces, new leaders

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An old watchtower bell was mounted on the sidewalk in front of the state Capitol in Phoenix in 2021.  (File photo)

The next Arizona House of Representatives will look much different than it did in 2022 with many members losing their primary election races or moving to a different area of government. 

What likely won’t change is Republicans will hold onto majority control in the House and a speaker of the House seat up for grabs. Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, is said to be a candidate for the seat although he hasn’t publicly confirmed he’s running. Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, announced he was running for the seat in a Turning Point Action rally in August.  

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Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria

Chaplik was critical of Speaker Russell Bowers, R-Mesa, at the rally, saying Bowers “refused to listen to the conservatives” and other Republican members of the Legislature to help pass a Democratic budget. 

“Arizona is aiming to make Florida jealous of our Legislature and how impactful we will be supporting Kari Lake,” Chaplik said. “We will rival Florida for the top spot in America, mark my words.” 

The Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times, reported that activist groups campaigning for Chaplik and Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, for Senate pro tempore have made leadership races unusual this year. Groups including EZAZ and FreedomWorks have become more open about campaigning for their desired candidates after becoming frustrated with current leadership, Yellow Sheet reported. 

House leadership positions in both the majority and minority caucus are determined by a secret ballot among each party’s elected legislators after the general election.  

Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, confirmed he was making a bid for majority leader, along with Reps. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City; Gail Griffin, R-Hereford; and Steve Montenegro, a former representative and senator running in Legislative District 29. 

Joseph Chaplik

“It’s important for us to work together as a caucus,” Dunn said. “I’m usually pulling people together and I’m willing to offer my skills to help do that and give up my committee assignment. If the caucus wants me, then I’ll offer my services,” Dunn said.  

Overall, 15 of the 31 Republicans in the House are up for re-election for House seats this November, including two of the party’s three leaders. Bowers lost his primary race for Senate in Legislative District 10.  

Democrats will have even higher turnover with 11 of its 29 current representatives up for re-election. Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, lost his primary election bid for secretary of state and party Whip Domingo DeGrazia, D-Tucson, didn’t file for re-election.  

That leaves Assistant Minority Leader Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, with a potential opening for Bolding’s seat, although she hasn’t publicly said anything on the matter. Rep. Andres Cano, D-Tucson, wrote in a text that several of his colleagues have asked him to consider running for minority leader but it’s not something he’s currently focusing on.  

“I am humbled to have their early vote of confidence, but right now, my focus is on protecting and expanding our seats in the State House this November,” Cano wrote. “Together, we’ll continue to connect with voters from all walks of life in (the) final stretch of the campaign and demonstrate our ability to turn the page at our State Capitol for the better.”  

Cano also wrote that “all” Democratic nominees are ready to lead in the next legislative session.