/ Modified mar 4, 2013 6:39 p.m.

Tucson Should Fare Well, Lawmakers Say

Local legislators say shift in political balance will favor the Tucson area


Tucson should fare better in the current legislative session because of a shift in the political balance and a more open atmosphere, area legislators say.

The Arizona Legislature hasn’t been the friendliest to Tucson and its issues in the last few years, partly because Tucson elects mostly Democrats, while Republicans from the Phoenix metro area have dominated politics and policy for years

But with more Democrats elected to the Legislature, Republicans are paying more attention to the other party's needs, they say. That is especially so in the Senate, where the margin is 17 Republicans to 13 Democrats.

"We’re a very powerful and well-educated group that is focused on doing what’s best for Arizona," state Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said. "I think we’ve already seen that pay off in the form of additional funding for the University of Arizona Medical School."

Veteran Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, agreed, adding that more Democrats in the political mix are making a difference.

"The whole atmosphere of the Senate is totally different," Cajero Bedford said. "From last year to this year, it has gone from black to white.”

The political change in the House wasn't as pronounced as in the Senate, with the GOP still holding a formidable 36-24 majority. But Tucson legislators said they will get a hearing for their issues.

"We need to make sure we’re represented as well up here in the Legislature," Rep. Stephanie Mach, D-Tucson, said. "Just because we’re two hours away doesn’t mean that we don’t have citizens that really have issues that are different from those in the rest of the state, and that they should be addressed.”

Rep,. Ethan Orr, one of few Southern Arizona Republicans, said he sees Tucson doing well in the session, because of the work of legislators in both parties.

"We have some very intelligent and thoughtful representatives both on the House and Senate side," Orr said. "I am the only Republican from Tucson in this area, so I’m the only one that’s a part of the majority caucus. What I’ve found though to be gratifying is it’s important to my caucus and my leadership that they take care of me, they take care of this district."

Cajero Bedford said she hoped the new atmosphere will give Democrats more say in the budget. But Farley said the party won't have a direct impact.

"There’s a number of things I’ve got working in the budget," Farley said. "While I’m not going to be included directly in the budget - because they’ve decided not to include Democrats again this year - I have a number of Republicans who are understanding and embracing some of my priorities, and they’re going to move that forward in the budget process.”

Watch this and other stories on AZ Illustrated Metro at 6:30 p.m. on PBS 6.

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