Southern Arizona will be well represented in the next legislature. Note - that’s Southern Arizona, not the City of Tucson. Tucsonans are about to pay for their egocentric predilections and constant flow of political whack jobs.
Republicans have 18 of the 30 state senators, and 35 of the 60 representatives. Conservatives number 16 of the 18 and 31 of the 35. Southern Arizona has two of the 16 senators and six of the 31 reps. How many Democrats that leaves is mostly irrelevant, because there will now be a reasonably conservative Republican governor with nobody for squishee Republicans to roll over for. The cries about “lost clout” in Southern Arizona come from Democrats, a handful of soft Republicans, and a media with a similar agenda, all whining about their own current declining status. The rest of us will be just fine.
Only twice in Arizona history has the state been governed by a center-right GOP legislature with a compatible governor, 1966 to 1974 under Gov. Jack Williams, and 1991-1996 under Governor Fife Symington. The Mecham era 1986-88 contained a GOP majority legislature so hostile that the governor was impeached. Putting aside Symington’s legal problems, unrelated to his office, the state generally prospered in both eras.
Chicken Littles point to the lack of committee chairs among Southern Arizona Republicans, and bemoan “Phoenix” domination, failing to note that all eight Republicans are freshmen who usually don’t get committee chairs. One did. Sen. Jonathan Paton chairs Judiciary, no doubt reflecting his eight years in the House. Two have important vice-chairmanships, Rep. Frank Antenori of Tucson on Transportation, while our own Al Melvin of Saddlebrooke has Appropriations. These seats don’t go to “outsiders.”
For too long Pima County has sent to Phoenix many Republicans who just didn’t play well with others. The claim they were “representing Pima County’s interests” falls flat when they rarely got a bill passed or for that matter stopped. Southern Arizona is far better off with some folks who now can.
The general complaint that “Phoenix legislators will now be in charge” usually comes from Tucsonans who have failed to recognize that long ago, Maricopa County interests became much more diverse and much of Phoenix is now represented by the same locoweed chompers they elect. Most Maricopa GOP legislators hail from Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Tempe and other suburbs that have almost as many conflicts with Phoenix as Marana, Oro Valley, and Sahuarita do with Tucson. Almost — Phoenix has been far less able than Tucson over the years to retard other communities. Which is why 90 percent of Maricopa is in an incorporated area and only 65 percent of Pima.
That Tucson provincialism and attempt to dominate the rest of the valley has led to what has occurred in many other areas of the nation where urban interests are opposed to those further away. As those we elect come from further away, expect Tucson to now be ringed by a host of interests not compatible with theirs. Rep. Antenori points out that only 15 percent of his constituents live within Tucson’s city limits, with the rest spread from Sahaurita to Sonoita to Sierra Vista to the unincorporated Tanque Verde Valley. Sen. Al Melvin lives in Saddlebrooke, which is in Pinal County.
While Tucson’s clout declines, the rest of Southern Arizona’s will grow. Re-apportionments based on population have cost Tucson seats but added to those in surrounding counties like Cochise, Graham, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Yuma. On those issues where a common interest exists, expect their senators and representatives to join with Tucson’s, but Tucson needs to recognize that it is no longer the dominant partner in that coalition.
Listen to Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy on Inside Track, Saturdays, 1-4 p.m., on KVOI 690AM.