Former Arizona House Speaker and Republican Party activist Jeff Groscost died Friday at his Mesa home, according to family friends and lawmakers. State Sen. Karen Johnson, a close friend of Groscost, said he had recently undergone gallbladder surgery but had come home from the hospital and told family and friends that he felt fine. He died Friday morning of a heart attack.
Mesa police and fire personnel responded at 11:42 a.m. Friday to the 2400 block of East Florian Avenue after receiving a 911 call about a person in the home not breathing, Mesa fire spokesman Mark Freeman said.
The 45-year-old former Arizona speaker of the house was found unresponsive. After life saving measures were attempted he was transported to Banner Baywood Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, Mesa police spokesman Sgt. Chuck Trapani said.
Groscost is perhaps best known for being the architect of a bill offering generous financial incentives for people who bought vehicles converted to use alternative fuels, ostensibly to reduce air pollution.
But motorists jumped on the tax credits, in some cases buying new luxury SUVs at half the cost, and the program threatened to drain nearly $1 billion from the state budget. Legislators fixed the bill in a special session, but not before $140 million had gone out in tax credits and Groscost’s political career was tarnished.
Groscost represented Mesa in the state House from 1993 to 2001, serving as speaker of the House from 1997 to 2001. In 2001, scarred by the altenative fuels fiasco, he lost his bid for the Senate to Democrat Jay Blanchard of Gilbert, an Arizona State University professor who capitalized on voters’ anger.
Groscost later went to work for a company that manufactures alternative-fuel conversion kits.
Even after leaving office, Groscost remained active in politics behind the scenes. When he died, he was Republican Party chairman for Legislative District 18 in Mesa.