The Arizona House of Representatives is typically the least experienced of the Legislative chambers.
However, its speaker sensed an additional dynamic following Tuesday’s primary elections.
“There’s a lot of new people, but more interesting than their lack of legislative experience is that the House literally is going to get younger,” said Kirk Adams, R-Mesa. “There were a number of races in which the youngest candidate won or will replace a retiring, older representative.”
Tongue in cheek, Adams added, “All that youth will make me look older, hopefully.”
The House’s youth movement is especially evident in the East Valley. Justin Olson, 31, joined Adams as Republican primary winners in District 19. J.D. Mesnard, 30, and Tom Forese, 36, were the GOP winners in District 21.
Mesnard and Forese have no Democratic opposition in November’s general election. Kit Filbey is the Dems’ only nominee in District 19.
“The House has always been the younger of the chambers,” Mesnard said. “You see a lot of people in their 30s. I’m glad to see the younger generation taking a more active role, since we’re going to be, along with our children, reaping the benefits in the future. That’s the goal.”
Other young primary winners cited by Adams were thirtysomething Republicans Kimberly Yee (District 10) and Eric West (District 11), both of Phoenix.
The chamber’s youth was one of the first things mentioned by Eddie Farnsworth after his District 22 Republican primary victory on Tuesday. Farnsworth, who served in the House from 2001-08, and fellow nominee Steve Urie have no Democratic opposition in November.
“I think my kind of experience will be valuable right now because we are going to have a really young House in terms of time served,” Farnsworth said. “There’s going to be a lot of relatively new people.”
Adams said that the orientation program for new House members will be more extensive.
“There is a learning curve on the process, on how to get things done and interact with colleagues,” Adams said.
“We have to try to put everyone up to speed as fast as we can, because with the budget and the economy the way that it is, we have to hit the ground running in January.”
Olson, who received the same number of votes as Adams — 9,650 — in unofficial District 19 totals, said people in the district responded to the energy of his campaign.
“I think voters liked my experience, that I have been out in the arena, defending taxpayers and limited government, and I’m working to offer solutions to balance our budget that won’t do harm to the economy,” Olson said. “That was the main reason, and we had a great team of volunteers that helped get that message out.”
The phrase “new blood” is typically tagged to young candidates, but Mesnard said he would not let his age define him. Mesnard, a Legislative policy adviser for eight years, calls himself a “hybrid” of youth and experience.
“I don’t pay a lot of attention to it, to be honest,” Mesnard said. “The advantage of new blood is new ideas. But you get mistakes sometimes, because the weakness is inexperience. There’s merit to those who have been around know what they’re doing, but with the challenges we face today, you have to think outside the box, and that can be tougher for people who have been around a while and are kind of set in their ways.”