Jul 25, 2022 - Politics

Arizona Freedom Caucus hopes to be a force at the Capitol

Arizona state representative Jake Hoffman speaks at a press conference at the historic state capitol
State Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, announces the formation of the Arizona Freedom Caucus on Friday at the state Capitol. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios Phoenix

Conservative lawmakers at the state Capitol are looking to assert themselves in future legislative sessions with the creation of the Arizona Freedom Caucus, modeled on its federal counterpart in the U.S. House.

Driving the news: A group of GOP lawmakers announced on Friday that "nearly a third" of the 31 Republicans in the state House had founded the Arizona Freedom Caucus.

  • Rep. Jake Hoffman, the caucus' chairman, said their goal is to combat both the left and "establishment GOP that refuses to answer to the will of the people."

Why it's important: Republicans have one-vote majorities in both legislative chambers, and conservatives have seen many of their legislative proposals, on such issues as restrictive new election laws, stalled by a small number of GOP holdouts.

  • The GOP is expected to have larger majorities in the House and Senate next year, and if the Arizona Freedom Caucus exerts the influence it hopes to have, it could push the legislature in a more conservative direction.
  • The federal House Freedom Caucus has often clashed with Republican leadership, even helping to push former Speaker John Boehner into retirement.
  • Hoffman told reporters during the press conference that the Arizona Freedom Caucus will extend to the Senate by the time the next legislative session begins in January.

The big picture: The Arizona Freedom Caucus is part of a coordinated national effort that already includes six other states and could include as many as 25 by 2023, according to Andy Roth, president of the groups' parent organization, the State Freedom Caucus Network.

  • Hoffman said the Arizona caucus will have "tremendous support" from the national organization, including policy analysis, communication support, legislative support and grassroots support.
  • The various state freedom caucuses will communicate with each other and with their congressional counterparts.
  • There will be times when members will vote as a bloc on "non-negotiable" issues, said Hoffman, who told reporters, "In those situations, yes, we will hold the line. And there is power in numbers, so we look forward to being able to leverage that on behalf of the people of Arizona."

Between the lines: It's unclear exactly how many people are in the Arizona Freedom Caucus. Anyone who does join will have the option of keeping their membership secret from the public.

  • Reps. Joseph Chaplik, John Fillmore and Jacqueline Parker were announced as founding members with Hoffman.
  • Others will be listed on the group's website, which hasn't launched yet.
  • Hoffman defended the secrecy policy, saying a far bigger transparency problem at the Capitol is lobbyists who draft bills to give to lawmakers, then whip votes for those legislations without the public knowing who is actually behind them.

Flashback: For years, conservative state lawmakers have been part of an Arizona Liberty Caucus, but that group has been ineffective and loosely structured.

  • The resources and overarching organization that the Arizona Freedom Caucus have available will make much more of a force at the Capitol, Hoffman said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to show the State Freedom Caucus Network plans to expand to 25 states by the end of 2023 (not this year).

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