State Sen. Rick Gray, a Republican representing District 21, is pretty busy in the state Senate.
He is chairman of the Ethics Committee, co-chair of the Judiciary and Rules committees and is on the Appropriations, Education and Health and Human Services committees.
He is also the Senate majority leader.
Not bad for someone who, two years ago, thought he would retire from politics.
He is nearing the end of his third term representing District 21 in the Arizona House of Representatives,
In 2106, Gray ran for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission. He lost.
“I didn’t win, and I was out of the legislature,” Gray said. “I was thoroughly enjoying my time-off. Then Sen. (Debbie) Lesko told me she was considering running for office. She asked if I would be willing to stand for her in the (state) Senate.”
So it was in Jan. 2018, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors named him to replace Lesko when she ran for a vacant congressional seat.
While finishing Lesko’s term, Gray was elected to a full term in Nov. 2018.
He won another election when an internal vote naming him leader of the Senate’s Republican majority. “I was very honored by my colleagues in the Senate,” Gray said.
What kind of a leader is he?
“My view of leadership is servant leadership,” Gray said. “People look at leaders being elevated to be more important; I look at it as more people to serve and take care of.
“I need to make sure my caucus members are taken care of. There are some bills that might have had a problem in the House (of Representatives) and I was able to get them out of the House.”
Gray, who lives in Sun City, said though he assists his fellow Republican senators with political matters, his focus remains with District 21, which includes parts of Peoria, Sun City, El Mirage.
“We just had a legislative breakfast with the city of Peoria,” Gray said recently. “They updated us on what’s going on with Peoria. One of the big issues for me, when I was in the House I started the West Valley Caucus.”
Gray said one of his big issues for 2020, is to make sure the West Valley is fairly represented on transportation issues.
“We’ve got a Valley-wide tax, so we should have a Valley-wide transit system. That’s been one of my big pushes,” Gray said.
Gray and fellow District 21 representative Kevin Payne share similar views on bringing transit home.
“Rep. Payne and I were both in agreement when the county was trying to push a bill through - they wanted 24% (of transportation taxes) for the light rail,” Gray said. “But the light rail’s not going to happen in the West Valley.”
Gray and Payne are also co-sponsors of recent legislation streamlining the construction of the southern border wall on state and private land.
Gray said he is working with Peoria to find funding for an $11-million interchange bridge The Arizona Department of Transportation project at Loop 303 and Happy Valley Parkway requires partial local funding.
His bottom line: “What can we do to make sure county-wide tax is used appropriately.
“Especially since the growth is on the west side … The West Valley is where the growth is.”
After six years in the state House and two in the Senate, how does Rick Gray compare the two?
“The bottom line is there’s really not a difference. Arizona has 30 districts, each one has two representatives and one senator. We get the same amount of money, we do the same work. Everything is pretty much the same.”
Thinking about it, he added the Senate is “a little more tribal. It’s a little more restrained. Usually, there are a lot of newcomers in the House. People in the Senate usually have more experience, they’re not in the big learning curve.”
On either side, he said he tries to take a “big-picture strategy” when considering legislature to sponsor or support.
“I represent and was elected by the people in my district,” Gray said. “But everything we do (in the Senate) impacts the whole state.”