- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Rep. David Gowan of Sierra Vista said Thursday that he believes he has collected enough support from fellow Republicans in the Arizona House to become the next speaker.

Gowan is currently majority leader and is vying for the top House post against Reps. Eddie Farnsworth and J.D. Mesnard. Neither could be immediately reached Thursday. Speaker Andy Tobin is running for Congress.

Gowan courted conservatives and moderates and said he hopes to reunify the caucus.

“I believe I have the vast majority of my caucus,” Gowan said. “I’d like to bring the whole caucus together.”

He’ll have to hold onto that support for the next two months, because a formal vote for House leaders doesn’t happen until after the Nov. 4 general election.

The Arizona Capitol Times first reported Gowan had apparently secured enough votes. Election as speaker requires 31 votes.

Republicans control the 60-member House, currently holding 36 seats, and the GOP hopes to retain that many in November. The speaker plays a critical role, naming committee chairs and deciding what bills are sent to committees and brought to the floor for votes.

The expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in particular damaged party unity, with nine Republicans joining with minority Democrats to pass Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s expansion proposal in 2013.

One of those who backed Brewer and angered conservatives was Rep. Bob Robson of Chandler, who says he’s now supporting Gowan as speaker.

“He’s out asking for votes and after discussions with him I believe he has a true desire to try to unify the caucus and try to move the state forward,” Robson said. Robson now chairs the Rules Committee, but said he discussed a possible role as speaker pro tem when he spoke with Gowan.

Rep. David Stevens, who also represents Gowan’s 14th District, said he expects to take over the Rules Committee. He said Gowan is a strong leader.

“He’s a hard-nosed negotiator,” Stevens said. “He knows the art of the negotiation.”

Rep. Kate Brophy McGee also was ostracized by conservatives for her Medicaid vote, and she said she’s supporting Gowan as well. “I was pleased that he would reach out to all sides of the caucus,” she said.

Brophy McGee said she hopes to continue her work on the health committee and on the oversight committee for the new Department of Child Safety.

She cautioned that much can happen between now and the formal vote for a new speaker, which will happen after the Nov. 4 general election.

“We’re talking 57 days and a general election and a whole bunch of unknowns,” Brophy McGee said.

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