Two Chandler legislators land key leadership roles in new session - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Two Chandler legislators land key leadership roles in new session

November 23rd, 2016 development
Two Chandler legislators land key leadership roles in new session

By Paul Maryniak

In the wake of the Nov. 8 election, Chandler can now boast of having two key leaders in both chambers of the state Legislature when it goes into session in January.

And the election added a touch of blue to the previously solid Republic delegation serving the city.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough will become the state Senate president while J.D. Mesnard of Chandler was elected by his GOP colleagues as House speaker.

Both men represent District 17, which covers parts of Chandler and Gilbert, and sailed to victory in the election, along with newcomer Republican Jeff Weninger, a former city councilman.

Weninger and Mesnard handily defeated Jennifer Pawlik, the lone Democrat running for the two LD 18 House seats.

Yarbrough who handily won another Senate term over Democrat Dr. Steve Weichert, a physician, had been the senate majority leader and now replaces Andy Biggs, who was elected the new congressman in the seat previously held by Matt Salmon.

Meanwhile, that part of Chandler in Legislative District 18 will now have Democrats holding two of its three seats after Ahwatukee resident Sean Bowie defeated Tempe Republican Frank Schmuck in the Senate race and Tempe Democrat Mitzi Epstein led all four candidates for the two House seats.

Besides west Chandler, LD 18 covers Ahwatukee and parts of Tempe and Mesa.

In LD 18, unofficial results show that Democrat Sean Bowie of Ahwatukee beat Tempe Republican Frank Schmuck 51.3% to 48.6%, while Tempe Democrat Mitzi Epstein ousted 12-year legislator Bob Robson, a Chandler Republican.

Epstein was the top vote-getter among the four contenders for the two LD 18 House seats, gathering 30.5% of the vote, followed by incumbent Ahwatukee Republican Jill Norgaard at 29.4%, according to unofficial results.

Schmuck, a commercial airline pilot, in the primary had defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Dial and had campaigned hard on his proposal to replace the state income tax with a consumption tax that he said would bring in millions in revenue from tourists.

Bowie, a senior analyst in the Arizona State University provost’s office, singled out education funding as his primary issue, vowing to try to return K-12 and university spending to levels before the Republican-controlled Legislature began making deep cuts.

Epstein had waged an aggressive campaign, even making whistle stops at every public school in the district

Yarbrough has served in the Legislature since 2003.

He was re-elected three times from former District 21 and elected to the Senate in 2010 and re-elected in 2012 and 2014.

“I am honored and blessed to be chosen unanimously by our caucus to serve as Senate President,” he said. “We all realize there are big challenges ahead for our state, and we will work hard with the Minority Caucus, the House of Representatives and the governor to do what’s best for this great state.”

A lawyer who has specialized in family law, he has been the executive director of the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization since 1998.

He was a co-founder and served on the school board for Valley Christian High School from 1981-2005.

Yarbrough previously served on the House Education, Appropriations and Judiciary committees and chaired the Ethics Committee. He served eight years as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and two years as vice-chairman of the Rules Committee.

Mesnard said, “It’s an honor and privilege, of course, to be selected by your peers for this critical role.

“Servant leadership is foundational to the birth of our nation, and will be key to sustaining and renewing it,” he added. “The task ahead for our state isn’t easy, and will require great sacrifice, creativity, and enthusiasm. The incoming members of the House are not only up to the task, they intend to set a new standard for open, honest, and civil engagement on behalf of all citizens of Arizona.”

A teacher for over 10 years at Mesa Community College, Mesnard has been an Arizona resident for over 25 years and was first elected in 2010.

He was also the House Speaker Pro Tempore from 2013-2014.

Prior to running for office, Mesnard spent eight years working at the Arizona Senate where he served as a policy advisor on issues ranging from education, transportation and retirement, to family services and government administration.

He is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in music composition. He also completed two master’s degrees, one in business and the other in public administration.

He spent many years as a music team leader, and as a youth counselor and mentor at his local church. Mesnard and his wife, Holly, a registered nurse at Chandler Regional Hospital, reside in Chandler.