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Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh joins ASU GOP for club meeting to answer questions

Kavanagh joined College Republicans at ASU for an event where he discussed his career and work in the hotly contested state legislature


Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, at a College Republicans at ASU event in the Memorial Union on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tempe.

Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, spoke to College Republicans at ASU on Wednesday evening to discuss his political career and his role in the Senate during a critical election year for the balance of power in the Arizona legislature. 

Kavanagh said he composes laws based on lobbyists, constituents and, most of all, his own ideas. Last session, he sponsored over 50 bills – many of which were vetoed.

"Lobbyists will come to me with laws, constituents will come to me with laws, people who live in homeowners associations that have been abused by ridiculous boards come to me to change laws, but a big source of my laws are me," Kavanagh said to a group of College Republicans at ASU during an event Wednesday. 

Kavanagh, who has been serving in the Arizona Legislature since 2007, represents Legislative District 3, which covers Fountain Hills, parts of north Scottsdale and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. He is known for sponsoring many pieces of legislation in the Senate and currently serves as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and sits on the Senate Elections Committee. 

College Republicans at ASU is a conservative organization with a mission to continue building "a community of like-minded Sun Devils, providing them opportunities, and enacting change in (their) community," according to the Sun Devil Sync website. 

"We want to be able to hold events that tailor to people's majors that also tailor to their careers, that they have maybe already started," said Carson Carpenter, the club's vice president and a freshman studying political science.

On Wednesday, Kavanagh spoke to the young group of conservatives about his time in politics and how he got to the position he is in now.

READ MORE: ASU student organizations denounce student activities bill in state legislature

Born and raised in New York City, Kavanagh began his political career at 15 years old when he "walked into one of the conservative party storefronts and began doing a lot of volunteer work there." The senator attended New York University before being called to the Port Authority Police, where he spent 20 years.

Kavanagh later moved to Fountain Hills, where he volunteered for the Parks and Recreation Commission and eventually joined the town council. Kavanagh also taught at both ASU and Scottsdale Community College.

He then moved to the state Legislature, where he has moved back and forth between the House and Senate since being first elected in 2006. Most recently, Kavanagh has attempted to get legislation banning brass knuckles up and running in the Legislature, but the effort failed. Kavanagh has also authored controversial legislation regarding the use of pronouns in public schools and which bathrooms can be used by transgender students.

"I would much rather stay in the Arizona Legislature and be a big fish in a small pond than go to Washington D.C. and be a little fish in an ocean and have very little influence on what happens," Kavanagh said.

Spencer Stenholm, a sophomore studying political science, said although he did not necessarily agree with everything Kavanagh had to say, he appreciated learning "what goes through a legislator's mind."

"Someone in the field with that much experience can give a lot of insight, whether or not you agree with them," Stenholm said.

Stenholm wants to see more cooperation and moderation among his party in the state Legislature.

"I think that moderation is what Republicans are known for," Stenholm said. "That's conservative ideology: moderation, and I think we're getting away from that."

Ghais Redmon, a freshman studying political science, said he hopes he will see "more focus on the youth and education" from state Republicans because of Arizona's low education ranking nationally. He also wants Republicans in the state to prioritize free speech.

"I just hope that we continue a somewhat conservative agenda in the state and protect the interests of citizens," Redmon said.

Edited by Grey Gartin, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.

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