- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Republicans who retained control of both chambers of the Arizona Legislature chose new leadership teams Wednesday.

After the GOP victories Tuesday, Rep. J.D. Mesnard was picked as House speaker and Steve Yarbrough as Senate president. Yarbrough secured enough votes to win the presidency early this year, as long as Republicans kept control of the Senate.

Mesnard, meanwhile, lobbied the House GOP caucus for months before getting enough votes about two months ago. Rep. Darin Mitchell also had sought the job.

Rep. Regina Cobb said she backed Mesnard because he helped her understand the complex state budget process in her freshman term. Mesnard has been a Senate staffer and was elected to the House in 2010.

“I created a relationship with J.D. right from the beginning, and honestly, I just felt like he’s got all of us in mind,” Cobb said. “And that’s important.”

Mesnard replaces outgoing Speaker David Gowan, and Yarbrough will replace President Andy Biggs, who was elected to Congress.

Mesnard touted a lengthy plan to reorganize the way legislation is shepherded through the House, re-create budget subcommittees and shift power from leadership to the Republican caucus.

“I laid out a vision for the House, put it out there for people to see, so that I could be held accountable for that, and I think that resonated with a lot of people,” he said.

The president and speaker wield considerable power because they control the flow of legislation through their respective chambers. They will formally be elected when the Legislature convenes in January.

In other House leadership posts, John Allen will become majority leader and Kelly Townsend, whip. In the Senate, Kimberly Yee will be majority leader and Gail Griffin will serve another two years as whip.

Minority Democrats have not yet announced their new leaders.

Democrats picked up at least one Senate and House seat but some races remain too close to call and could change. Senate Republicans appear to have a 17-13 majority, while the House could be headed to a 35-25 split.


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