Some might call it a conspiracy, or not. However, it appears that there is certainly a concerted effort to remove both Senate President Steve Pierce and Speaker Andy Tobin from leadership in the Legislature.
Pierce will definitely be sent back to the Senate - he's unopposed by any Republican or Democrat opponent - but whether he can retain his current leadership role might be a different question.
One recent example is the August 7 letter sent to Pierce by eleven other Senators, protesting the use of Senate Victory funds in the Republican primary race between Senator Rich Crandall, R-Mesa; and Representative John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction. The letter origninated from Senator Biggs' office. Senator Lori Klein emailed out a copy of the letter, stating, "I thought you might wish to know that the majority of the senators are against Steve Pierce and Andy Tobins move to play in the primary against a fellow republican to elect Rich Crandall who is one of the most liberal republicans in the Senate. The letter is attached. The media hasn’t caught wind yet but this should go viral soon."
There are eleven signatures on that letter:
Senator Andy Biggs, Majority Leader, who ran against Pierce for Senate President. Rumor has it that Biggs lost by only one vote. And, according to the Arizona Capitol Times, "Speculation is rife that Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs might challenge Pierce for the top job." Biggs is running in his district completely unopposed.
Senator Steve Yarbrough, who is also fingered by the Arizona Capitol Times as a potential challenger to Pierce's Presidency. Bill Gates will be his Democratic opponent in the November general election.
Senator Frank Antenori, Majority Whip, who also doesn't appear to want Pierce to remain as President. "I'm not a vote for Steve Pierce," he stated in the Arizona Capitol Times article, "Fractured GOP caucus sets up contested Arizona Senate presidency race." He is running against David Bradley, a Democrat, in the November election.
Senator Nancy Barto is running unopposed in the primary, although she has a Libertarian opponent in November.
Senator Gail Griffin is running unopposed in the primary, but has a Democratic opponent in November.
Senator Al Melvin is running unopposed in the primary, has a Democratic opponent in November.
Senator Rick Murphy Appears to really like public letters - he has also written one about Speaker Tobin recently. Representing Peoria, Murphy has one Democratic opponent to face in November.
Senator Lori Klein, who is running as a candidate for the House, directly targeting Speaker Tobin, hoping to unseat him in the primary, which would not just remove him from the role of Speaker, but from the House all together. Karen Fann is also running for this seat; only two can win. Klein who will not be in the Senate next year, says she voted for Biggs for Senate President last year, over Pierce. Klein contends that Biggs is more conservative than Pierce.
Senator Steve Smith got the best overall score in the Goldwater Institutes' 2012 Report Card. He is running for the Republican nomination in the House, District 11, with Adam Kwasman. (There are two open seats for each district in the House.)
Senator Ron Gould. Gould is term-limited out and will not be returning to the Senate next year.
Senator Sylvia Allen, Senate President Pro Tem, is not running for re-election this year. In the past, she has been a strong supporter of former Senator Russell Pearce.
To summarize, of the eleven people who signed the Victory Funds letter, criticizing Pierce for meddling in the primary races:
- Four are in leadership now, including two (Biggs, Yarbrough) who might be interested in challenging Pierce for the Presidency. One (Allen) will not be returning to the Senate at all next year.
- Four will not be returning to the Senate next year: Klein, Smith, Gould and Allen.
- Six of the eleven are associated with Constantin Querard, founder of Discessio, LLC and are described as, "current and former officeholders who have relied on our consulting..." They are: Allen, Griffin, Melvin, Smith, Klein and Murphy
The Problem With the Victory Funds Letter
Except, there is a problem. Of all the signatures on that letter, one of the most interesting is the signature of Ron Gould. What makes that so interesting is that Senate President Pierce is endorsing Gould in the Congressional race against incumbent Paul Gosar. Pierce even held a fundraiser for Gould in Prescott recently. So, why would Gould sign such a letter, when that signature would argue against the endorsement?
The answer is, frankly, that he didn't.
According to Gould, "I did not sign the letter. I was emailed a copy of the letter, but didn't sign it or agree to have my name added to it. It was added without my authorization. President Pierce is aware of this issue."
So, who added his electronic signature, and why? And does this mean that all the other signatures are legitimate, or were other signatures added to this letter without authorization?
Senator Murphy's Part
Setting aside the fact that at least one, if not more than one of the signatures appears to have been added without authorization, another interesting player in the issue is Senator Murphy.
Murphy, who confirmed by phone that he did agree to have his signature added, is very involved in supporting Lori Klein in the primary against Speaker Andy Tobin and incumbent Karen Fann. Yet, the sole focus of the Victory Funds letter is to protest the interference in a primary between Republican candidates.
According to Pierce, he does not control the expenditures of the Victory Funds; however, the expenditures made to date have been to support an incumbent Senator in keeping his seat against a challenger.
And, by supporting Klein, isn't Murphy interfering in a primary?
This is a breaking story - stay tuned for more information as we seek answers to many of the questions posed.