While the divisive fight over Medicaid Expansion was widely expected to produce primary challenges to the small number of Republicans who joined with the Democrats to pass it, early indications are that conservatives who voted against the expansion are increasingly finding themselves targeted by left-leaning Republicans who believe that crossing the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation ought to be a primary goal. Whether or not these challengers are successful will make a big difference to whether or not Arizona’s Legislature remains solidly conservative.
In the West Valley, Litchfield Park City Councilwoman Diane Landis is challenging State Representatives Steve Montenegro and Darin Mitchell, who are two of the most conservative legislators in the State House. Both voted against the Medicaid Expansion and Landis’ challenge seems largely based on Montenegro and Mitchell’s conservative record. Their Senate seatmate is also being challenged. State Senator Don Shooter, another “No” vote on Expansion, is being challenged by 2012 House candidate Toby Farmer. Farmer’s campaign is being run by the same consulting team who ran the 2012 campaign for Bob Worsley. Worsley ran against conservative Russell Pearce and was a key “Yes” vote for the expansion, so Farmer’s challenge to the more conservative Shooter has caused both taxpayer and limited government groups concern.
Even leadership is not immune to challenges, as House Majority Leader David Gowan and his seatmate David Stevens (both “No” votes) are being challenged from the left by Susan Syfert in Legislative District 14. Can Syfert convince Republican voters that they would be better served by a moderate voice? The implications for the Republican caucus are huge, as Gowan is a front runner for Speaker of the House when current Speaker Andy Tobin finishes his eight years of service in 2014.
The good news is that conservatives are challenging some of those Republicans who pushed the Medicaid Expansion over the wishes of the majority of their caucus. There are challengers already running against Bob Robson, Jeff Dial, Kate Brophy McGee, Heather Carter, TJ Shope, Frank Pratt, and Douglas Coleman. But it is clear that conservatives are going to have to do more then just play offensive to elect conservatives in place of Yes votes. Conservatives are also going to have to rally to defend conservatives who are under attack for standing up against the special interests.