Arizona House Speaker Bowers Protects Seatmate, Heads Off Udall Primary Challenge

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers

When conservative groups decided they had had enough and went in search of a conservative challenger to liberal State Representative Michelle Udall (R-LD25) they encountered opposition from an unexpected source — Udall’s more conservative seatmate and House Speaker Rusty Bowers.

As potential candidates considered the race it was Bowers who was reaching out to them, asking them not to run and talking them out of challenging Udall.

Bowers’ actions were not likely intended as charity towards the House’s most liberal Republican member, instead they were interpreted as him acting in his own self-interest, because in Arizona both House members run in the same election where the two top vote-getters advance, which means that if Udall had a primary, so would Bowers.

Bowers was the top vote-getter in the 2018 primary and would be expected to easily prevail again in 2020, especially considering he was sitting on nearly $120,000 between his two campaign committees, far in excess of Udall’s $56,000 campaign bankroll.

Bowers’ actions have frustrated conservative groups who are already struggling with passing bills in a 31-29 State House where any single GOP member can kill a good bill.

“The idea that Michelle Udall should get to be the decider on every bill that passes through the State House, which means basically every bill that comes out of the Senate as well, is nuts, and voters in her district would replace her if they had a real choice.” said one lobbyist who asked not to be named because she was continuing to work at the Legislature.

With time running short, and the coronavirus making it difficult to gather signatures, it would appear time has all but run out for conservatives hoping to replace Udall with someone more conservative.  In the absence of a primary, both Udall and Bowers will advance to the general election in a very solid Republican district, assuring their re-election without them having to campaign for it.

Both Udall and Bowers will get to carry any unspent campaign funds into the 2022 cycle with them.