(Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been paraphrased and edited for brevity and clarity.)
Arizona State Senator Andy Biggs was recently elected President of the Arizona State Senate. He represents Arizona’s recently-redrawn 12th Legislative District, which encompasses most of Gilbert, Ariz. Previously, he served in the state House of Representatives and State Senate representing what was the 22nd District.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Tucson and raised in Tucson. When I was young I went on a mission for my church to Japan. I came home, got married and went to BYU for my final year of college. After that I went to law school at the University of Arizona. I started my law career in New Mexico but a year later I moved to Gilbert and have been here since 1986.
What caused you to go to New Mexico and why did you come back to Arizona so quickly?
When I was in law school I thought I would become an international lawyer. I spoke fluent Japanese and while I was in law school I did interview with several firms based in Japan. But as I was making my decision I was offered a job by a firm in Hobbs, New Mexico, and my wife and I, and our one child at the time, decided to see if small town life was to our liking. The people in Hobbs were fantastic but, as they say, if you are in the center of everything, you are in the middle of nowhere. There was a lot of distance between us and any big city. We were very isolated and away from family so we decided to come back to Arizona.
What type of law did you practice in Arizona?
Originally I was a prosecutor for the city of Phoenix and then I opened up my own office in Mesa. I was what was called a “dirty shirt” lawyer. I represented many different clients involved in a host of issues. I was a general practitioner. Today I am not even sure that type of lawyer exists anymore as everyone is a specialist.
What got you involved in politics?
I have always been involved in politics in one way or another. My first political memory involves growing up in Tucson. There was a kid who lived across the street who I did everything with but he came from a family of Democrats and I came from a family of Republicans. I remember he was bad-mouthing Barry Goldwater and my brother got into a fight with him. That is to tell you that politics has always been part of my life.
When I was first living in Arizona as an adult one of my neighbors knew I was interested in politics and suggested that we go to a Legislative District 30 meeting. We went and found it very contentious and lively. We were young and we loved it. We found it very entertaining. There was no reality TV back then but this was better than that. I started going to all of the meetings and got involved.
At some point a friend urged me to run for office and I did in 2002 for the House of Representatives. I won that election and served four terms before moving to the Senate and winning in 2010 (and being re-elected in 2012).
Did you have a signature issue when you first came into office and has it remained your focus?
The budget was always a very big issue for me because it affects so much of our lives. It is very important to business and to education. And it is what allows us to build roads and create the infrastructure we need. In all my years in office, I have always sat on the Appropriations Committee. In fact, this is the first term that I have not been on that committee.
Education was also always very important to me. I have six kids and I was always very interested in parental choice when it comes to education. I think a good education system is vital to the growth of Arizona.
How would you grade yourself on those two issues during your 10 years in office?
Nobody’s perfect but I believe I have been very consistent and I have done a good job.
Even very early in my career I was warning against excess spending and would vote against budgets that were just too large. I always knew and warned that Arizona would be in big trouble if the economy ever turned against us. For many years we were growing at 10-15 percent annually but the state budget was growing at 20-25 percent. You just can’t keep that up. That is why we had a huge deficit when Gov. Napolitano left.
In the last couple of years we have done a good job of living within our means and wiping out most of the deficit. We still have to deal with the issue but by and large we are solving it.
We have also done a very good job in education creating parental choice. It is why we have the number one high school in the nation in Arizona and the number one charter school in the nation. We have done a lot of very good things with the Arizona educational system.
How do you expect to use your leadership role in the Senate?
I should be able to use my position to deliver a positive message about our state as we set about to grow our economy and create jobs. The state to our west is not doing such a good job as they continue to pass higher taxes and create bigger deficits. We hope to show the businesses (in that state) that we have a positive story to tell and this is a good place to come to create jobs.
Of course I recognize that we are not out of the woods yet economically and we need to continue to balance our budget and move forward with the good funding formulas that we have developed over the last few years. The Legislature can’t create jobs but we can get out of the way and create an environment that helps the business community.
Of course a very important thing we have to do is interface with the federal government and try to work through all the rules and regulations that they impose on us including ObamaCare. Toward that end we will continue to try to defend and protect personal property rights.
How important is agriculture to Arizona?
Agriculture is a critical industry in the state. We grow a very large percentage of the winter vegetables that are consumed in the United States and the world and we need to continue to help agriculture face the challenges they have, including federal regulations and water problems. We also grow a lot of cotton here and have many cattle ranches.
Immigration reform is an important issue to agriculture. Do you expect the Arizona Legislature to deal with this issue again this session?
I think we will discuss border security issues but I am not sure that you will see much movement on immigration reform and illegal aliens. That is a federal issue. Of course, dealing with that issue and dealing with the federal government on that issue is a concern. The Obama regime has apparently made granting amnesty to illegal aliens a top priority and we know that will impact us here in Arizona.
This last election cycle Republicans lost seats to the Democrats in both state legislative houses as well as in the congressional delegation. Is Arizona still a “Red State”?
We are still firmly a Red State. We are a huge Red State in voter registration and that is the most important thing. The Independent Redistricting Committee did Arizona Republicans no favors. The fact that we have an overwhelming lead in voter registration yet there are five Democrats in Congress and only four Republicans in Congress proves that they did not do a fair job. They tried to put all the Republicans in a few districts and spread the Democrats out. The Republican winners won by landslide margins while the Democrats barely nosed out wins. We are still a Republican state but the IRC has put us at a disadvantage.
What is the political future of Sen. Andy Biggs. Do you have a road map to your next office?
My hope is to get us through this session in as collegial manner as possible. I expect to pass a balanced budget and my goal is to get us out of session as quickly as possible. If I have a road map it is very short term. I never thought of holding public office as a career.
Our members and your constituents produce the best fruits and vegetables in the world. Are you a consumer of our products and do you have a favorite?
My favorite fruit is whatever is in season. And I can say I am strong to the finish because every day I eat some spinach. I am very in tune with agriculture. Occasionally I like to buy a cow, raise it and slaughter it as I love a good steak. And I have to say that my district used to be home to many dairies and while there are not many left, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I like my Arizona dairy products.
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