New Democratic leadership at the Legislature

After the election Tuesday night, Republicans kept control of both the Arizona State House and Senate. However, the Democrats flipped some seats from red to blue and minimized the Republican majority in the House.

As of right now, the split in the Senate remains 17-13 in Republican favor, yet the House is now 31 Republicans to 29 Democrats, the closest the margin has been in almost 60 years.

Former House Minority Leader, Chad Campbell, said he assumes “the Democratic leadership teams will not only look to leverage their new numbers by holding the caucuses together on key Democratic policy positions, but also how they can govern in pragmatic ways when opportunities arise. If the GOP can’t come together on some key issues, the Democrats may be able to demonstrate how they would tackle big issues when given the chance.”

Arizona Democrats met Thursday Nov. 8 to divvy up the leadership positions between the legislators who won on election day. They held internal elections for a variety of positions including Minority Leader and Minority Co-Whips.  

Senate Minority Leader

David Bradley (D-LD 10) has been elected to be the next Minority Leader of the Arizona State Senate. Bradley will be replacing Katie Hobbs (D-LD 24) who ran for the statewide position of Secretary of State. Prior Bradley served as the Minority Leader Pro-Tem.

Bradley has been in the state legislature for 14 years and his top issues include: finding sustainable resources for educators and schools; repairing and building infrastructure that attracts businesses while also helping grow businesses already here; ensuring accountability and quality in the social service system; reforming sentencing laws; and protecting the environment.

“Everybody who’s elected is a leader,” Bradley said. “My role is to help them be good leaders [by] providing them with the support that they need… that’s my central role, to help the leaders lead [and] I’m looking forward to working with the Senate leadership and the House leadership and ultimately with the Governor’s office to do what’s best for the state of Arizona.”

Senate Asst. Minority Leader

Lupe Contreras (D-LD 19) will serve as the new Assistant Minority Leader for the Arizona Senate. Contreras, who served as the Minority Co-Whip last session, will be replacing Steve Farley (D-LD 9), who ran for Arizona Governor.

Contreras was in the Arizona House of Representative from 2013 to 2015 and since 2015 has served in the Senate. He was a member of the Government, Judiciary, and Senate Ethics committees.  

Minority Co-Whips

Jamescita Peshlakai (D-LD 7) and Lisa Otondo (D-LD 4) have been chosen as the next two Minority Co-Whips. The two will be taking the spots of Contreras and Martin Quezada (D-LD 29).


Peshlakai was elected in 2013 and became Arizona’s first Native American woman state senator. She served as an advisor on Veterans Affairs and is president of the Arizona Issues to the Native Nation. She served in the Army and while in office spearheaded an initiative to create an independent veterans affairs agency for the Navajo Nation.  

Otondo has been a Senator for six years. She served on the Natural Resources, Energy and Water and Transportation and Technology committees. Her top priorities are attracting quality jobs and economic development; fighting for education; and investing in the best land management projects and water management.

House Minority Leader

Charlene Fernandez (D-LD 4) will be replacing Rebecca Rios (D-LD 27), who was elected to the State Senate Tuesday, as the House Minority Leader. She previously served as the House Minority Whip.

Fernandez was first elected to the House in 2014. Her key issues are providing a quality education to all children, including manageable classroom sizes and full funding; economic development that allows the creation of jobs; assuring access to quality and affordable health care and mental health services; and protecting agriculture’s water rights.

“I don’t care what district you live in, what city or town, where you’re from or how old you are. Arizonans just want their leaders to get things done,” Fernandez said. “We’ve got a mandate from the State of Arizona that they want us to fight for working families, to make sure they have access to quality health care and public education no matter where in our state they live. So, with the largest representation Democrats have had since the 1960s, that’s what we are going to do.”

House Asst. Minority Leader

Randy Friese (D-LD 9) will return as House Assistant Minority Leader.

Friese has been a House member since 2015. Prior to his time in public office, Friese was a surgeon who notably operated on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) after she was shot in 2011.

According to his website, his top issues are: providing quality education funding; allowing women to have the “right to make all her own decision about her health care choices”; working towards and ensuring economic development that helps with job and business growth; and increasing public safety, which he says includes mandatory motorcycle helmets, banning smartphone use while driving, and comprehensive background checks for all gun purchases.

House Minority Co-Whips

Athena Salman (D-LD 26) and Reginald Bolding (D-LD 27) will replace Fernandez, who served as Minority Whip.

Salman was first elected in 2016. Her top issues are: paying teachers more, keeping schools public, decreasing class sizes, and testing students less; condemning the exclusion or targeting of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability;  lowering the number people in mass incarceration; reducing the carbon footprint; having high-quality affordable health care; comprehensive immigration reform; helping end poverty; and women’s rights.

Bolding has been a member of the House since 2015.  He launched a non-profit that provides students from low-income communities access to internships and workforce development training at top companies and organizations. He previously served on the House Education and Ways & Means committees. He focuses on the issues of education, business, criminal justice, and civil rights. He serves as the Vice Chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (Western Region), Chair of the Arizona Black Legislative Caucus, and Founder & Board Chairman of the Arizona Coalition for Change.

The Arizona Legislative session will begin on Jan. 14, 2019.  

Emily Richardson

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