By Chardae Heim
Communications Coordinator, Western Growers
(Editor’s Note: Senator David Gowan spent the first eight years of his political career in the Arizona House of Representatives fighting for the families and businesses of Southern Arizona. He now serves as Arizona’s 14th Senate District Senator.)
David Gowan, a conservative Republican, was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2008. He resides in Sierra Vista, a city located in the 14th senate district of Arizona, which also includes Cochise County, Greenlee County, most of Graham County and a portion of Pima County—a district comparable in size to the State of Massachusetts with an 83.5 mile stretch on the Mexican border.
Following Gowan’s graduation from the University of Arizona, former state Rep. Randy Graf had announced his resignation from the State House to run in the Republican primary for Congress. Gowan saw this as the perfect opportunity to pursue his interests in politics. While Graf’s announcement came at what seemed like the perfect time, Gowan’s desire to make a change based on his viewpoints motivated his run for office.
In 2004, Gowan kicked off his first campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives. He lost both the 2004 and the 2006 elections. Instead of allowing these back-to-back defeats to discourage him, he used them as fuel to run for a third time. He won a runaway victory in 2008 and was sworn into office in January of 2009. He served a total of four terms before being termed out. During his tenure in the State House, Gowan served as both the Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House. After his four terms, he initially sought election to the U.S. House as Arizona’s 1st Congressional District representative, but he withdrew before the end of the race, choosing to return to the private sector.
After leaving the race, Gowan spent the following two years as a Realtor, but this wouldn’t be the last time he would be seen in the Arizona Legislature. During those two years, Gowan prepared for his State Senate election campaign. Politics was his passion and although seeking change motivated his decision to run, serving the people has been his motivation to stay in office.
“The best job I’ve ever had is serving the people and taking care of my constituency,” Gowan said. “I enjoy it and I’m blessed to have it.”
After winning the senate seat, Gowan hit the ground running with an appointment to serve as Appropriations Committee Chairman and member of the Water and Agriculture Committee, as well as the Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Representing a predominantly rural district, Senator Gowan has been an unyielding advocate for the agriculture industry. “Ask anybody, ag is the backbone of this state, [ag] created this state,” he exclaimed.
One of Gowan’s most significant achievements as a legislator has been helping the state fairs, which he believes is one of the last educational opportunities for the community members to familiarize themselves with the industry.
“I want to make sure people stay educated properly so they know the source of their food,” he said. “Did you know that some people think their food originates in grocery stores? That’s why fairs, and all forms of agricultural education are so important for our farming and ranching communities.”
Gowan was recently named Legislator of the Year by the Arizona County Fairs Association for his work.
In addition to being a champion for the fair industry, Gowan has been a huge proponent for water projects.
“As Appropriations Chairman, I have fought for $20 million in funding for water infrastructure,” Gowan said. “As Chairman, I have the ability to start conversations that everyone doesn’t get to [start].” The funding he is referencing is a part of the Drought Contingency Plan, arguably the biggest water policy change in Arizona in the last 40 years. “Pinal County farmers shouldn’t have to fight for water from other areas, and neither should Yuma, or any other ag region in our state!” Gowan stated. He is determined to continue his fight for those that need water, especially those in the agriculture industry.
In the Arizona State Legislature, Senator Gowan has a reputation for being quick-witted and pragmatic with “principles he doesn’t cross.” He is passionate about the issues that affect his constituency. During his first term, Gowan was initially under the impression that everyone who gets elected immediately tackles issues that were also important to him, considering they were all Arizona representatives. “I later found out, that’s not true,” he said laughingly. “Everything is about balance.”
Gowan referred to his time spent in the Arizona Legislature as a learning experience. “I have learned the ins-and-outs of government processes, which is necessary to be a strong representative for your constituency,” he exclaimed. He came into office in 2009, during the Great Recession. At the time, the primary focus was the state budget, because Arizona faced a massive economic downturn and a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit. Over the eight years that he served as a state representative, he and his colleagues were able to get the budget deficit structurally balanced and turned into a surplus. Little did the senator know, the takeaways from the Great Recession would be useful and applicable over a decade later.
Similar to the recession, COVID-19 has caused economic concerns. Due to Gowan’s past experiences and informed decision-making skills, he has participated in a better recovery at a faster rate.
He admits working under COVID-19 restriction has called for adjustments. “For starters, there have been plenty of Zoom calls,” Gowan said jokingly. The pandemic has caused his appreciation for face to face interaction to grow. “It is easier to speak to someone face to face,” he said. “We can look at each other’s body language and faces.”
Aside from the Zoom calls, the Arizona Legislature is taking the necessary precautions to ensure their safety, health and cleanliness. This includes constant wipe downs of the rails and floors and having easily accessible hand sanitizers throughout the building. Although they are diligent in their efforts, Gowan says he is hopeful that we see an end to this.
While the pandemic has thrown a wrench in the works, Gowan remains in awe of this nation’s tenacity. “The professionalism is boundless,” he says. “Being able to work for yourself and create jobs is the beauty of this great country. That is what being a professional means.” According to Gowan, being a professional includes creating wealth and making a good life for the family.
As a legislator working incessantly to bolster his constituency, he has found it difficult to detach from work. “When I’m not introducing new legislation, I am most likely killing off bad bills,” he stated. “Defending the industry is a large portion of the job and I don’t go to the Capitol to lose; I go to win for my constituents.”
When he does find downtime, he chooses to spend it with family. Senator Gowan can be found at his family’s apple tree orchard, at a county fair or leisure traveling. Above all else, as a man of great faith, he never misses a Sunday at Mountain Vista Baptist Church. “I love my district, it’s a great district,” he declared. “It’s like me, pro-family and pro-faith.”
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