Newly minted state lawmaker Matt Kopec talked with The Range yesterday following his appointment to the Arizona House of Representatives to fill the vacancy created when state Rep. Victoria Steele stepped down to focus on her run for the congressional seat now held by Republican Martha McSally.
Kopec, who was picked on a 4-1 vote by the Pima County Board of Supervisors (with Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller opposing his appointment), said he knows "the challenges of being a member of the minority party and getting legislation passed but I know there's a lot of work that needs to be done and there are a lot of people who need representation up there. I'm excited, but I expect it will be a whirlwind and I'll be drinking from a firehose for the next while."
Kopec, 27, said he'd focus on supporting the rights of cities and towns "to control their own destinies and make sure that they get the state-shared revenues that they should get, the (road repair) revenues that they should get to function properly. I know education is the No. 1 issue but I know for me, I'm going to be looking really, really hard at anything that affects local government."
The Tucson native and Catalina High School grad is giving up his job as an aide to Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich to take the state lawmaker gig. He told The Range he plans to run for the seat later this year.
Kopec is no stranger to the campaign trail. In the last few years, he's helped Tucson City Council members Karin Uhlich and Shirley Scott win their seats, as well as assisting state Sen. Dave Bradley in his 2012 win over former lawmaker Frank Antenori. But other than party offices, he's never been a candidate before.
With Kopec in the hunt, there's a three-way primary that will be decided in August. Current state Rep. Randy Friese, an emergency room doc who helped save lives during the Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting in Tucson, will be running for reelection, while Pamela Powers Hannley, a medical journal editor and lefty blogger who was passed over for the appointment by the supes earlier this week, has already been campaigning for the seat. (Democrat Ted Prezelski, an aide to Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham, was also passed over for the appointment but we hear he's leaning against launching a campaign for the seat later this year.)
Republican newcomer Ana Henderson is also seeking a LD9 House seat in the November election.
Legislative District 9, which includes central Tucson, the Catalina Foothills and Casas Adobes, leans slightly Democratic but remains a competitive district; in the previous legislative session, one of the House seats was held by moderate Republican Ethan Orr.