PHOENIX (AP) — The incoming speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives has hired the top attorney for a powerful anti-abortion group as general counsel for the legislative chamber, one of a string of staffers with deep conservative resumes chosen by Rep. J.D. Mesnard.
The hiring of Josh Kredit as the chamber's top lawyer comes after Mesnard chose Goldwater Institute vice president Michael Hunter as his chief of staff following his election as speaker by majority Republicans last month.
Kredit is currently general counsel and vice president of policy for the Center for Arizona Policy, a group that opposes gay marriage and abortion and promotes religious freedom. The group has written anti-abortion, school choice and other legislation in recent years and is a powerful force among Republican lawmakers.
Mesnard said Tuesday that he's building a conservative staff to support a conservative Republican caucus.
"I think that Josh offers a wealth of policy and legal experience, that's why I chose him. His values line up with the values of the caucus," Mesnard said.
Along with Kredit and Hunter, Mesnard's other staff picks include at least two other previous Goldwater Institute employees, a former Americans for Prosperity staffer and an attorney who worked for national Republican groups and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
Mesnard pointed to Hunter as an example of someone who can serve at multiple jobs and be beholden only to his current employer. He noted that he served as a Senate staffer when the Senate was at odds with former Gov. Janet Brewer, then worked for her before heading to Goldwater, which was taking on Brewer over her Medicaid expansion plan. Kredit will do the same, he said.
"If for instance we were to do something that the Center for Arizona Policy was against or not do something they wanted to see, Josh will be there advising and advocating the Republican caucus's agenda, not the CAP agenda," he said.
Democratic Rep. Rebecca Rios, the minority leader, said the list of staffers announced Monday evening left her thinking 'Oh boy, here we go."
"I got through with the article and I realized all right, he's assembled a very conservative cast, but this is a conservative caucus, the Republican caucus, so I wasn't really surprised," she said. "I am concerned with a Trump presidency that perhaps there will be a Trump effect here in the Arizona Legislature and we'll see a more emboldened conservative group that is pushing anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ legislation."
Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod praised the hire.
"Josh is among a long list of extraordinary team members who God has used at CAP and then moved on to continue his work elsewhere," she said in a news release.
Kredit helped pushed anti-abortion laws through the Legislature in his five years at CAP, and criticized the Supreme Court's 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage, saying that the court "disregarded the democratic process by stripping all Americans of their ability to debate and decide marriage policy.