Senate Republicans select new leadership team led by Petersen

Senate Republicans select new leadership team led by Petersen

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The Senate Republicans selected a new leadership team that Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, will lead, but allowed candidates currently losing their races to vote. Although only 16 Republicans are ahead in their Senate races for the Nov. 8 general election, 19 Republicans voted.

The Senate Republicans selected a new leadership team headed by Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, but allowed candidates currently losing their races to vote. 

On Thursday afternoon, Republican senators met for about two hours at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix to select their new leadership team. Sen. President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, ran the meeting but did not vote.  

Although only 16 Republicans are ahead in their Senate races, 19 Republicans voted. Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, running in Legislative District 4, Rob Scantlebury in Legislative District 9 and Gary Snyder in Legislative District 23, were losing their races, according to the latest election results.  

A week after voting ended, results – though not yet final – have Barto, Scantlebury and Snyder down by 1,255, 3,077 and 3,979 respectively. They aren’t even the three closest legislative races. 

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Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert

The votes for Senate president and Senate majority leader were both 10-9, meaning one of the three losing candidates could have flipped everything.  

“For a guy who has talked extensively about illegitimate votes over the last two years, this is the most illegitimate vote we’ve seen in the Legislature, maybe ever,” Republican lobbyist Barrett Marson said of Petersen. 

Petersen ran against Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, for Senate president. Returning lawmaker Anthony Kern ran against Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, for majority leader and Borrelli won. 

Still, it is unlikely that the Senate Republicans will do the vote over again. Petersen is already handing out assignments for committee chairmanships and other high-up positions, which disincentivizes those Republicans from wanting to vote again. 

The Senate majority whip is Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye. The pro tempore is Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge. 

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, confirmed on Monday that he will chair the appropriations committee, a powerful position that Petersen appoints. 

Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, announced on social media on Friday that Petersen appointed her chair of the elections committee. Rogers believes the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.  

“Wendy Rogers being the election chair is quite the statement,” Democratic strategist Tony Cani said, though he added that it’s not surprising under Petersen. Rogers was censured by most of her colleagues last year and has been the subject of several ethics investigations and lawsuits for various comments. She said that she would “destroy” the political careers of other senators and asked the “groyper army” to go “hit Ron Watkins” last session, which inspired an ethics complaint and the censure. 

Rogers was on the elections committee last year and filed several election reform bills, including Senate Bill 1335, which would have banned almost all early voting and Senate Bill 1338, which would have required all elections to have only hand counts and only paper ballots. Arizona already only has paper ballots. 

The rest of the committee chairmanships were announced on Tuesday. 

Barto was set to chair the health and human services committee if she won her race, but now has conceded and Shope will take over the health and human services committee.  

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, will chair the government committee.  

Kern will chair the judiciary committee. 

Kerr will chair the natural resources, energy & water committee, a position she held last year. She also chaired the ethics committee in the last session, but the ethics committee chair will be announced next week, according to Petersen. 

Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, will chair the commerce committee.  

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, will chair the finance committee. 

Former Senate President Ken Bennett will return to the chamber and chair the education committee. 

And former lawmaker David Farnsworth will chair the Committee on Transportation & Technology. 

Gowan will chair the newly created Committee on Military Affairs, Public Safety & Border Security. 

Senate Democrats stuck to the tradition of allowing only candidates winning their races to vote. On Nov. 10, Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman and current Sen. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, was voted minority leader. Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, is assistant minority leader; Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, is caucus chair and Sen. Rosanna Gabaldón, D-Green Valley, is minority whip. 

Petersen is a polarizing figure. He heavily pushed the Senate’s 2020 audit of the presidential election. He has voted in favor of every abortion restriction and sponsored two bills last year to ban transgender girls from playing sports and to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors. Petersen is also in favor of expanding gun rights, including on school campuses. 

“I think the simplest way to put it is that it means they have learned nothing. That they are on a path to apparently quadruple down on the mistakes and extremism that led them to this moment, but they’re going to run up against the brick wall of the Hobbs governorship,” progressive lobbyist Gaelle Esposito said of the leadership vote and committee assignments. “Somehow they’re going to get worst of all worlds because they will look like fools and not get anything they want accomplished.”  

Fann did not respond to requests for comment.