“Coming from a rural district like mine, we believe in our liberties and freedom. We believe so much in family values and freedom…just freedom.”
(Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been paraphrased for brevity and clarity.)
David Gowan, a Republican, was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2009. He resides in Sierra Vista in Legislative District 14, which includes all of Cochise County, all of Greenlee County, all of Graham County except for the Indian reservation, and the Eastside of Pima County—an area about equal in size to the state of Massachusetts. The district’s economy consists of farming and ranching, mining and military (active and retired), as Fort Huachuca is located in Cochise County.
Speaker Gowan was elected by the Republican Caucus to serve as Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives in November, 2014. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona. He has been married to his wife, Jessica, for 18 years. They have two sons. Gowan is active in his local church and with his son’s Boy Scouts activities, where he acts as the chairman of Troop 48. He is a member of the Sierra Vista ELKS Lodge and chairman of Tai Shin Ki Do Martial Arts System.
Where were you raised and where did you go to school?
I was born in Stockton in 1969, but my family name comes from Ukiah in Mendocino County and the family name has been in that county since the 1880s, as far as I can figure that out. My dad was in the military, the Air Force, for eight years before I was born. And my mom owned a restaurant, Manny’s, in Stockton, where the local farmers would come and order a bunch of burgers. She also served great broasted chicken and hot dogs. I was raised in both Mendocino and Stockton. I attended school in Stockton until the 8th grade, and then went to school in Mendocino County and graduated from Ukiah High School. I consider Ukiah my home town. I remember there were a lot of pear orchards, but now there are wine grapes.
How did your upbringing influence and shape your political thinking?
I was born in the city but also grew up in a small town as well. Stockton was a large city, but the areas around it are rural. My family came from rural life and I was raised that way. I was born in California when Ronald Reagan was the governor of California and went to high school in the 1980s when he was president. I’ve always had conservative values—probably because of my father, and my mother and the way I was raised. I am a freedom- and liberty-loving type, like most rural people.
How did you get involved in politics?
I was politically-minded in high school, so I paid attention to politics. I moved to Arizona in 1993. My wife, Jessica, was born in Tucson although her mother moved her to Fresno when she was a year old. They then moved all the way up to the Leggett area for a while before moving down into Ukiah where we met in high school. Later, Jessica’s mother moved back to Arizona and we followed her here.
In Arizona, I got a job working as a magazine vendor and also started learning martial arts (Gowan is a committed marital artist and teacher). I then went back to Cochise College and to the University of Arizona, earning degrees at both. During that process I thought, “I want to get involved here,” as I was tired of just griping about things. At college, I became the president of our honor society at the University of Arizona, and that process taught me how political organizations worked. In the early 2000s, a friend and I started the Cochise County Young Republican League. Through that I started to meet people in politics—representatives, local elected officials and Gail Griffin, who chaired the Cochise County Republican Committee (and is now a State Senator). I also got to know Randy Graf, who was the Majority Whip in the Arizona House of Representatives. He decided to run for Congress in 2006 and left a seat open, so I jumped into the race. I lost the first two times I ran, won the third time and am still here! I am the first southern Arizona Speaker in 28 years (Joe Lane was the last in 1986).
Do you have other mentors you look up to?
My first mentor is God. Jesus Christ is in my life and has opened the doors to all these trails for me. But the person here on earth who has helped me the most is my father. He is why I am here with the values and the beliefs I have.
As for political people, my favorite president is George Washington because without him, we would not have a nation. He believed in etiquette and respect and took that to heart. Ronald Reagan is another. How do you not have someone like Reagan to look up to? I am a true Reagan Republican all the way and am sure we would see eye-to-eye on most things.
What issues will be the most pressing this regular session as the Speaker of the House?
The major issue is the budget—we are still trying to get it under control and need to get it structurally balanced. The governor, as well as both houses, has put forth that idea and now it is time to figure out how we get there. The governor talks about growing us out of this slow growth period. We are growing, but not as quickly as we would want. The major piece of legislation for the House that we have taken up is deregulation. When business is free to grow and thrive, it can create more jobs for more people and make this economy roll. It all falls into how regulation affects them. Farmers and other business owners want to go from point “A” to point “Z” without all the letters in between, if they can. There are always hoops, but if we can pull those hoops out and get free, we can put more people to work.
What do you do in your spare time?
I spend my spare time with my family. We like movies and enjoy meals together. Sometimes we go up to the city and shop. And, of course, on Sundays we go to church. I do what I do here in the state capitol because of my family. I look at it this way—if John Adams can do four years across the ocean after a long war before that and be away from his family for duty and for his family—I am not doing too bad going to Phoenix on Monday mornings and coming back on Thursdays or Fridays.
Our members produce the finest fruits and vegetables in the world. Are you a consumer of our products? Do you have some favorites?
Absolutely I do. I like to eat, but I love to wear clothes too, and there is a lot of cotton in my district. I like to eat apples, oranges and tangerines, and who doesn’t like lemonade? We all love our lettuce, too. I especially like asparagus with meat, and I also like broccoli. My sister likes to eat tomatoes raw like an apple, but I tend to eat them sliced on a burger or cut up in a taco. I really like olives and love ground pepper. How do you not love everything farmers and ranchers do for us? Without them we don’t live. My dad sent me an article once from the lovely San Francisco Chronicle. It was complaining about hunters and asked why they hunt animals for meat? Don’t they know they can just buy it at the grocery store where it’s made?
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