As reported in the Arizona Daily Star yesterday, newly elected Senate President Tim Bee has gotten rid of four staffers: Greg Jernigan, Rob Dalager, Mark Swenson and Nick Simonetta. One capitol observer also told me that another staffer has also been let go, but I haven’t been able to confirm this.
A couple of things are going on here: one thing is the obvious, Bee would like to hire his own allies. This is natural and expected. Bee also needs to show that his leadership will be different than that of Ken Bennett, and this is the best way to show it right away.
There was dissatisfaction with the control that these staffers had over legislation. For example, Swenson (a former Tucson reporter) was often refered to as “Senator 31″ because of the virtual veto power he had over legislation, often exercised on the narrowest ideological grounds. Many Senators were unhappy that unelected staff were making decisions that should have been left to those that had been elected.
Even though Bee is showing backbone here, some at the capitol are already saying that he wouldn’t have done this without the consent of newly elected majority leader Thayer Verschoor.
I’m wondering if this is the first of many staff decimations on the Republican side. I have heard complaints from Republicans about two long time, high profile consultants, Constantine Querard and Nathan Sproul. Querard consulted with campaigns in LD 26 and Randy Graf’s congressional campaign, all of which were Republican seats that went Democratic. The style of the campaigns were cookie-cutter Maricopa County conservative campaigns that would have been sucessful had they not been waged in more moderate, albeit still Republican, areas in Southern Arizona. Sproul was the one of the architects of Proposition 107, the anti-gay marriage measure that was supposed to bring Republicans to the polls but its language was so broad that it narrowly lost. The campaign for the measure was nearly invisible and had little effect on Republican turnout. One blog, Arizona 8th, called for Sproul’s exile last week. Both of these consultants have been touched by scandals over the last couple of years as well.
CLARIFICATION – I had spoken to an activist in Phoenix who named an Alan Richardson as someone else who was terminated. I put his name as one of the people who Bee cut in my original post. I recieved an e-mail from a capitol staffer who told me that he’d never heard of the guy. I took his name off of the post. I then recieved an e-mail from Richardson, who refered to himself as “low-level” (which may be why the other person didn’t know who he was) and said that he had submitted a letter of resignation before the election.