New Republican senator bashes Freedom Caucus

Former Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, is sworn in during the opening of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol, Jan. 11, 2021. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chose Bolick to fill the vacant Senate seat for Legislative District 2 on Tuesday, July 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)

New Republican senator bashes Freedom Caucus

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Sen. Jake Hoffman. 

Returning lawmaker Shawnna Bolick disavowed the Freedom Caucus and its Senate leader and claimed to have moved on from the 2022 and 2020 elections in an interview with Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates. 

Bolick was selected to replace outgoing Sen. Steve Kaiser on Tuesday, and in recordings obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times through a records request, she assured Gates that she is not in line with Freedom Caucus Chair Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek. Gates interviewed her and two other candidates as part of the process to choose Kaiser’s replacement.  

“In 2021, I had many confrontations with Hoffman, so I’m not part of their wing. I might agree with the principles of what their group is supposed to be, but I just don’t support their tactics. I feel like they are gonna’ be the reason why we lose both the House and the Senate,” Bolick said. 

Hoffman suggested Bolick may have trouble passing legislation next year.

Attacking nearly a third of the legislative majority, unprovoked, is neither smart nor effective, and risks putting that member’s entire legislative portfolio on unstable footing,” Hoffman said Friday. “The reality is that attempting to tear your colleagues down doesn’t make you taller. The Arizona Freedom Caucus will continue, undeterred, to fight for opportunity, prosperity, and liberty for all Arizonans.”

Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek

Bolick served from 2019 to 2022 in the House of Representatives. She was known for sponsoring a bill that would have allowed the state Legislature to overturn the results of presidential elections. 

In her interview with Gates, Bolick said that as someone who knows and understands the process she won’t get “rolled” by other members.  

She also went into some of the details of her past interactions with Hoffman and the Freedom Caucus. 

Bolick confirmed that she would have voted for the budget the Legislature passed in May. “I voted for last year’s too, and that’s whenever Hoffman and all of them are like, ‘you’re a RINO,’” Bolick said. “I said, ‘border security. You guys are voting against border security.’ And I said, ‘if we had passed the first budget, we would have been out a month early, but you guys basically bloated it all up.’”   

She blamed Hoffman for trying to kill one of her bills appropriating money to fund use of an app people can use to report bullying, but she said that she got it through when he wasn’t there one day.  

She also criticized a bill Hoffman tried to pass that would have broken Maricopa County into smaller counties. 

“They came to me in – this is a Turning Point idea – they came to me and said, ‘we have this idea about breaking up Maricopa County.’ I said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘So, how many more prisons are we going to have?’ And I said, ‘That’s big government.’ Just Tyler Bowyer, obviously Jake Hoffman is on his payroll.,” Bolick said. Bowyer is chief operating officer of Turning Point Action.  

“I think it got killed in government (committee) and poor (former Rep. John) Kavanagh had to deal with Hoffman,” she said. 

Bill Gates

She speculated that Hoffman wanted to break up the county because he was “looking for a new job” as mayor in his town, which is Queen Creek.  

Bolick didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

She also responded to questions from Gates about her thoughts on election security.  

Bolick said that she wants to move on from the 2020 and 2022 elections but still wants to work on improving future elections.  

Bolick sat on a panel with Republican lawmakers who hosted speakers from True the Vote, a conservative group based in Texas that believes the 2020 election was stolen and that there is significant election fraud in Arizona. Bolick has also said that election was “rigged” several times over the last few years. 

In response to Gates’ questions about True the Vote, Bolick said her opinion of the group has changed and is “lesser than what it was before.” 

On the largest issue the legislature might tackle this year, a Maricopa County’s transportation sales tax extension to fund transportation, Bolick said she supports addressing light rail funding in a separate proposal. The tax, referred to as Proposition 400, has stalled in the Legislature over disputes over how much funding should go to light rail.  

Gates also interviewed the other two potential candidates to replace Kaiser, former congressional candidate Josh Barnett and Legislative District 2 Republican Chair Paul Carver.  

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Clint Hickman said that one of the candidates had issues come up in their background check, but he wouldn’t say who. “The issue might or might not be important to that (legislative district’s precinct committeemen) that sent names to us,” Hickman said in a text on Wednesday. 

Carver addressed the fact that he was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and that he was a member of the Three Percenters far-right group. He said the Three Percenters wasn’t what he wanted it to be and that he “never made it past the parking lot of the Capitol” on Jan. 6. 

Barnett wouldn’t commit to not running against Kaiser’s replacement in the district. He has already filed a statement of interest to run. 

 “I’m way more reasonable than what people think,” Barnett said in his interview.  

When Bolick was selected, Barnett criticized the decision. “I’ve seen a person say we should trust the Maricopa BOS to pick who represents LD 2 and no one should primary against the crooked BOS appointed Bolick? Can anyone tell me why this is remotely logical… to me, it’s the exact opposite,” he tweeted. 

Bolick also mentioned Barnett in her interview with Gates. 

“I can’t stand him. He hates me too,” she said. She also pledged to not try and challenge the appointee in the GOP primary if she wasn’t appointed. 

“This district is the key to Republicans remaining in the majority,” Gates said. 

Bolick will be sworn in Friday.