A high-profile race for the state Senate seat representing Gilbert is shaping up to pit two incumbent legislators in a battle over who can better oversee the state's finances.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who is term-limited in the Arizona House, last week filed paperwork to run against incumbent Thayer Verschoor, the Senate's Republican majority leader, that group's second-highest ranking position.
While the two Republicans had worked closely in the past on legislation, including a proposal to mandate Gilbert to provide fire services to paying county island residents, they disagreed more recently on state budget bills.
Farnsworth said he and Verschoor are "still friends," but claims that since Verschoor became majority leader more than a year ago, he has aligned his decisions with a leadership group Farnsworth calls "fiscally irresponsible" and is approving spending increases that could lead to a future tax increase.
"I can tell you, there are some things he has supported and done that I'm very disappointed in," Farnsworth said. "He has been willing to compromise ... at this point, he and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues because of the position he has taken while he has been in leadership."
But Verschoor saidhe played a key role last year in passing a state budget that was a rare success in that its spending does not exceed inflation plus population growth.
"I think when you look back to when (Farnsworth) was majority leader, I differed with him on the budget," Verschoor said. "It happens when you're in leadership. When you're in leadership, you have a seat at the table, and you're there to make a difference."
Farnsworth argued that he and other Republican candidates running for Senate seats are seeking to change its landscape, making the 30-member chamber more of a watchdog over finances and plans from Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona House. He added that the state also is adding too many restrictions to residents that he wants to fight.
"We have a government that has an insatiable appetite for spending and for taxpayer money," Farnsworth said. "We need people down here to continue to boldly stand up and oppose this kind of uncontrolled and irresponsible fiscal spending."
But Verschoor said Gilbert, and other communities in District 22 including parts of Mesa and Apache Junction, have benefited from having one of its legislators in a key leadership role.
"I'm very proud of my ability in leadership to, against all odds, be able to get a permanent reduction in state county education property taxes," he said.
"Those are the things you're able to accomplish in leadership. Most down here consider me to be one of the most fiscally conservative members of the Legislature," he said.