Andy Tobin: From Thoughtful Conservative to Partisan Hack

I served in the legislature with House Speaker Andy Tobin (R-Paulden) and I liked the guy. He was first elected in 2006, when he was regarded as a pragmatic conservative in the tradition of the others in the Yavapai County delegation, namely Representative Lucy Mason (R-Prescott) and Senator Tom O’Halleran (R-Sedona). We actually worked together to (temporarily) repeal a highway funding gimmick that shafted rural areas (and, to a lesser extent, Tucson) in favor of freeways in suburban Maricopa County. I would not say that we were friends, but we were friendly.

The only time I ever saw anything that would foreshadow some of what has happened since was when an anti-abortion bill was debated on the floor. The normally calm and soft-spoken Tobin was rambling and unhinged in speaking in favor of the measure. This did not strike me as unusual, since a lot of people are passionate about the issue, and it is easy to see how such sentiments can get the best of someone.

At some point, Tobin changed. One legislator I talked to said that the change came around 2008, when the Goldwater Institute gave Tobin a lower rating than Democratic Representative Mark DiSimone. Whatever the reasons, Tobin has become a bitter and angry partisan with a habit of personalizing issues.

The latest manifestation came on a Sunday morning political talk show in Phoenix:

A few things should be noted about the Speaker’s rant. First, he never really answers Resnik’s questions. Second, a man whose leadership team includes individuals whose only distinction is pursuing petty and silly legislation is calling Representative Campbell “immature” and “insincere.” Finally, the Speaker seems to believe that there is some sort of rule that requires members to consult him before talking to the press or introducing legislation. Of course, no such rule or tradition exists, nor would Tobin ever dream of consulting Democratic leadership on such things.

Political reporters are fond of portraying such exchanges as petty feuds. This is certainly not the case here. Tobin was allegedly responding to a detailed 12-point plan, that was released on Friday. Of course, “response” may be too strong a word for a partisan rant that addressed none of the policy details. It should also be noted that Tobin himself has no proposal regarding gun violence.

For his part, and to his credit, Campbell has not responded in kind. Instead, he has challenged Tobin to a televised debate on the issue. It is too soon at this point to say fairly that the offer has been ignored, but Tobin has declined such opportunities in the past.

The Speaker can demonstrate his own “maturity” and “sincerity” by engaging in a real debate, or he can just throw another tantrum.

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