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Mon, June 17

Steve Pierce chosen as new Arizona Senate president

Courtesy Paul Boyer/Arizona House of Representatives<br>
Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin of Prescott, right, congratulates Sen.
Steve Pierce of Prescott Thursday shortly after Pierce was named Arizona
Senate president.

Courtesy Paul Boyer/Arizona House of Representatives<br> Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin of Prescott, right, congratulates Sen. Steve Pierce of Prescott Thursday shortly after Pierce was named Arizona Senate president.

For possibly the first time in state history, the Legislature's Speaker of the House and its Senate president both hail from Yavapai County.

The Senate narrowly chose Prescott rancher Steve Pierce Thursday to be its new president.

"I couldn't be happier," said Rep. Andy Tobin of Paulden, who became House speaker earlier this year. "Steve Pierce is a long-standing friend of mine, and the Arizona Senate is in good hands."

Pierce replaces Russell Pearce of Mesa after Pearce lost a recall election Tuesday.

Pierce said he will focus his efforts on jobs and the state budget.

"It will be about the budget and helping people find work, getting jobs here, getting business back to where it can flourish," Pierce said. "And we've got to look where we can for new sources of revenue. I don't mean higher taxes."

Examples of new revenue sources include selling more state trust lands and legalizing slot machines at horse and dog racetracks, Pierce said.

"That would definitely help Yavapai County and get the racetrack running again," said Pierce, who owned horses that raced at Yavapai Downs before it went bankrupt this year.

While racinos would break compacts with Indian tribes and allow the tribes to stop giving a cut of their revenues to the state, Pierce said at least one study shows the racinos could produce three times more state government revenues than the Indian casinos.

Pierce said he won't be focusing on immigration issues like his predecessor, who authored numerous laws to reduce illegal immigration. Pierce voted against Pearce's latest package of immigration bills this year.

"I don't have an agenda," Pierce said. "My job will be to help other people."

Pierce, who had been the Senate's majority whip since 2009, won the presidency Thursday by an 11-10 vote of Senate Republicans behind closed doors. Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs got the other 10 votes.

Pierce said his fellow Republican senators did not voice concerns about having Yavapai County residents in both of the Legislature's leadership positions. He noted that Biggs is from the Phoenix metro area and new Majority Whip Frank Antenori is from Tucson, so the leadership represents all areas of the state.

Democratic leaders issued hopeful statements.

"I congratulate Sen. Pierce and I truly hope that he will work with us to end the partisanship and solve the serious problems that face our state," Senate Minority Leader David Schapira said.

"I congratulate and look forward to working with Sen. Pierce in his new role as president," House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said. "I hope that President Pierce will reject the partisanship and extremism that has been standard operating procedure in the Legislature these past few years."

Pierce joins House Speaker Tobin in the two top legislative leadership positions. In April, Tobin became the first House speaker from Yavapai County since 1933.

Pierce is the first Senate president from Yavapai County since Ken Bennett of Prescott, who was speaker in 2003-2007 and now is secretary of state. The secretary of state is the second-highest state office behind the governor.

Yavapai County Republican Party Chair Mal Barrett Jr. said all three men have gained reputations as people who listen.

"I just think we've got good breeding stock up here in Yavapai County," said Barrett, in a reference to Pierce's ranching heritage.

"We are rational conservatives," Barrett said of Yavapai County Republican leaders. "We don't give ground, but we are respectful in the way we deal with other people."

Barrett has known Pierce for about three decades.

"Steve Pierce is a stalwart conservative in Arizona politics, but he has the ability to negotiate and have a rational discourse with those he disagrees with," Barrett added.

It's noteworthy that Pierce got the leadership job in only his second term as a senator, Barrett added. Pierce, a third-generation Arizonan, first entered politics in 2001 as Yavapai County Republican chair.

Pierce noted that Judge Robert Brutinel of Prescott also recently rose to a top state position, on the Arizona Supreme Court.

"Prescott's pretty important in the state," Pierce said. "I think it's great."

State records indicate that Yavapai County might have laid claim to both the House and Senate leaders for a fleeting moment during the state's first year of existence in 1912, when H.H. Linney of Yavapai County apparently was speaker during just one special session while M.G. Cunniff of Yavapai County was Senate president. Both were Democrats.

The state archives didn't have a list of the territorial Legislature's speakers and presidents Thursday, and it's still working on complete lists of state Legislature speakers and presidents that include their community of residence.


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