Legislative District 18

State Sen. Sean Bowie has made it a habit to visit every school within Legislative District 18 every two years, as he did here at Altadena Middle School in 2017. He’s about to start his tour again.

Stating “it just seems like a good time to step away," State Sen. Bowie yesterday announced that he will not seek another term.

The Ahwatukee Democrat, who championed teen mental health with a series of successful bipartisan measures during his three terms in the Legislature, told AFN in an exclusive interview that his decision culminated a long period of introspection.

The bombshell announcement by the 37-year-old Mountain Pointe High School alumnus comes at a time when Ahwatukee’s place in the Legislature for the next 10 years is very much up for grabs as the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission redraws legislative district boundaries.

Bowie has been consistently the top vote getter among all Democratic and Republican candidates in LD18, which currently includes all of Ahwatukee and parts of northern Chandler, south Tempe and a bit of southwest Mesa.

But those boundaries could change, and Republicans already are waging a behind-the-scenes effort to dilute all-blue LD18, possibly by including the Pinal County city of Maricopa within its boundaries.

It also is not out of the question that Ahwatukee could be carved into two or more pieces, as it was until 2003.

Currently, the GOP has the backseat among registered voters in LD18, according to the latest figures provided by the County Recorder’s office. It shows Democrats lead with 56,465 registered voters, followed by 54,151 independents and 50,803 Republicans.

The GOP also is in third place in Ahwatukee, where there are 19,909 registered Democrats, 19,871 independents and 19,477 Republicans, according to the County Recorder.

The Pinal County Recorder shows that Maricopa has 10,167 registered Republicans 11,924 independents and 9,534 Democrats.

The commission is expected to unveil its first cut at redistricting later this year.

Bowie a few months ago

had signaled some exasperation and weariness with the increasingly polarized Legislature.

As someone who came into office with a pledge to reach across the aisle to push legislation that would benefit all Arizonans, he told AFN, “One thing I noticed this year was it was a lot harder to build those coalitions and stop bills I thought were bad.

“And there were just fewer people that were focused on bipartisanship and the process as a whole was just more partisan than it used to be – which is obviously not preferable. But it seems like that’s only going to continue as both sides get more polarized and more partisan, so I do worry about how that’s going to work in the next couple of years.”

Indeed, Bowie is the leading Democrat legislator in the last five years to see measures he introduced signed into law.

The total: Six.

But Bowie said he is proud of those bills and the other work he did for his constituents in Ahwatukee and throughout LD 18.

He was one of the first lawmakers of either party to react to the rash of teen suicides, particularly in the East Valley, where at least 50 boys and girls have taken their lives since 2016. 

One of those young lives – Corona del Sol High School senior Mitch Warnock, who took his life in 2016 – inspired Bowie to introduce S.B. 1468, which won unanimous legislative support and Gov. Doug Ducey’s approval in 2019.

It requires all school employees who deal with kids in grades 6 through 12 to undergo suicide awareness and prevention training.

“I was pretty proud of that and talking to teachers and counselors now, I think that’s absolutely made an impact in the lives (of many),” he told AFN.

He also won bipartisan support for other teen suicide prevention and awareness legislation – including a measure that requires health insurance companies to cover mental health services.

Bowie, who had to relinquish his job as a senior analyst for Arizona State University’s provost when he took his seat in the Legislature, also pushed successfully for increased funding for the state university system and K-12 public education – both of which have been battered for more than a decade by budget cuts.

Bowie was able to be an adjunct faculty member in ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, teaching a variety of courses on ethics, public service, the Legislature and leadership.

He could have run one more time for the Senate before he was termed out, but expressed frustration over the state’s political landscape as far as the Legislature is concerned.

“There’s just a few competitive districts and in those districts that are pretty blue or pretty red, all the action is in the primary and generally, the way to get now is to be really partisan and bash the other side.”

He told AFN he has no interest in seeking a seat on Phoenix City Council, where incumbent Sal DiCiccio is termed out and where several candidates, including Ahwatukee resident Moses Sanchez and DiCiccio Chief of Staff Sam Stone, already have declared their candidacy.

Nor is he interested in a State House seat or a job as a lobbyist. 

“I’m not one of these people who wants to run for something to have a title,” he said. “I want to actually enjoy doing the work and I love my work in the Senate. We can’t do it forever. …I was eligible to run one more time before I hit term limits, but I don’t want that to be the reason for why I would run…I don’t want to be selfish with that and I can step aside and do something else for a while.”

He said he may not stay completely out of politics, as he is planning to make some endorsements in Tempe’s City Council races, which will be held in March.

And he will still be a state senator for the next 15 months or so and intends to work just as hard as he has the last five years, he said.

“Obviously, I won’t be campaigning and fundraising and knocking on doors and all that but will still be very busy doing the job that folks wanted me to do.” 

Rep. Mitzi Epstein who was elected in LD18 for her first term the same year as Bowie, immediately announced her candidacy for the Senate seat. The Tempe Democrat's decision now opens a House seat in LD18. The other is occupied by Chandler Democrat Jennier Jermaine, who will be campaigning for a third term next year.

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