Tuesday’s recall of Russell Pearce creates a legislative power vacuum, with three lawmakers already trying to line up votes to become the next Senate president.
The 21 Republicans — now including Jerry Lewis who ousted Pearce — meet Thursday behind closed doors to choose the new leader. If prior elections are any indication, no one candidate will get the necessary 11 votes on the first round, forcing a second vote between the top two vote-getters.
Thursday’s vote could have ripple effects, as it might then force Republicans to also choose a new majority leader and a new majority whip.
Elected to the House in 2002, the Gilbert resident he moved to the Senate last year. He is considered the closest of the contenders to Pearce, both personally and politically, being the only one to show up for his election night event. Biggs became majority leader earlier this year after Scott Bundgaard was forced out amid an ethics probe. He has been a leader in the fight against photo radar, calling the entire system of enforcement by cameras unfair.
Serving his second term in the Senate, Pierce was chosen by his colleagues as majority whip at least in part based on his reputation for getting along with all factions of the GOP caucus. That could help him gain votes now, with divisions that resulted last session over Pearce’s unsuccessful push to declare that children of illegal immigrants are not citizens. Pierce, a Prescott resident, also is the only contender from outside Maricopa County.
He was one of the leaders of the fight against Pearce’s “birthright citizenship’’ proposal last year, aligning himself with other senators who have taken a more moderate position on immigration issues. Yarbrough, from Chandler, is best known for championing state dollars for private and parochial schools and sponsoring laws designed to protect Christian groups against what he sees as discriminatory practices.