PHOENIX - A smaller Republican majority in the Arizona Senate ousted incumbent President Steve Pierce of Prescott on Friday, replacing him with Andy Biggs of Gilbert.
Biggs is generally perceived as somewhat more conservative on fiscal issues than Pierce.
The 9-8 vote behind closed doors came on the heels of several Republicans being displeased with Pierce, who formed his own political action committee, which did not support several Republican nominees locked in tight races.
Republicans maintain control of the Senate, but with only a 17-13 edge, down from the 21-9 they had before.
Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, was vocal about how some senators who did get elected felt about all that.
"There are three missing people here," Melvin, R-Tucson, said of the Republican losses - incumbent Frank Antenori and challengers Tyler Mott and Joe Ortiz. Antenori and Mott are from Tucson; Ortiz is from Casa Grande.
He said all three should have been part of the new Republican majority, "if the Victory Fund had been properly spent."
Instead, Melvin complained, the fund was designed to put Pierce's interests above those of the GOP caucus.
"It seemed to me a calculated effort for a smaller majority that might go one way rather than a larger majority of 20 that would have been good for the party," he said.
Pierce would not discuss the conflict after leaving the meeting, other than to say he thought he had the necessary nine votes lined up to hold his position, but "someone lied to me."
There was no such major shift in the House, where it appears Democrats also picked up at least two and possibly as many as four seats: The Republicans who remain the majority reelected Andy Tobin of Paulden to run that chamber for the next two years.
Biggs also said he is not adverse to working with the somewhat stronger Democratic caucus, saying he has "an excellent relationship with most of the Democrats that have been there."
That presumes, however, that bipartisanship will be necessary.
Newly elected Senate Majority Leader John McComish of Phoenix sought to minimize any belief that the election of Biggs signals a move toward the right in the GOP caucus.
He pointed out that he is replacing the defeated Antenori, who was considered far more conservative. He also noted that Adam Driggs of Phoenix, who was selected as majority whip, is likewise aligned with more moderate elements of the caucus.
McComish said he's not expecting any major changes in the GOP agenda.
"The priorities are going to be what they have been: the economy, jobs, education, health care, not in any particular order," he said.
Other GOP leadership selections were David Gowan of Sierra Vista as House majority leader and Rick Gray of Sun City as whip.
Democrats in both chambers will chose their leaders today.