Arizona’s Stephanie Grisham named White House press secretary

By: - June 25, 2019 1:20 pm

Stephanie Grisham, right, will replace Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary. She had been serving as First Lady Melania Trump’s communications director. Photo by Getty Images.

Arizona politico Stephanie Grisham will be the new face of the Trump administration after being named White House press secretary.

Grisham had previously been serving as First Lady Melania Trump’s communications director. She will replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose resignation was announced earlier this month. She will also take over the role of former White House communications director Bill Shine, whose position has been vacant since he left the job in March. 

Numerous Beltway media outlets had pegged Grisham as a top contender for the job from the moment the White House announced Sanders’ pending departure. As an early member of Donald Trump’s campaign, his transition team and his administration in the White House, she has long held the president’s trust. The New York Times described her as a “loyal and sometimes combative press secretary” to the first lady.  

“I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country,” the first lady tweeted on Tuesday.

Sanders wrote on Twitter that Grisham will be an “incredible asset” to Trump and to the country.

“I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy to leave our team in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job,” Sanders wrote. 

Grisham worked for Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 before becoming a fixture in the Arizona political scene. She joined then-Attorney General Tom Horne’s office as his spokeswoman in 2013, and became the spokeswoman for state Rep. David Gowan after his election as speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives after the 2014 election.

In 2015, Grisham began working for the Trump campaign, eventually taking leave from her job at the state House to work full-time on the campaign trail. After Trump’s inauguration, she joined his administration as a special assistant to the president and deputy press secretary. 

Horne said he wasn’t surprised to see his former spokeswoman rise to such heights in the Trump administration.

“She was very friendly, easy to work with as a colleague, and a strong advocate for me and then for the president’s wife and now she will be for the president,” Horne told the Arizona Mirror.

Gowan told the Mirror that he’s happy and excited for Grisham.

“She has always approached her job with professionalism and dedication. Through experience, I know she will do a wonderful job for the President!” Gowan said via text message. 

Horne noted that Grisham had a great rapport with journalists at the Attorney General’s Office. That relationship, however, soured during her time with the House of Representatives after the Arizona Capitol Times began writing about Gowan’s questionable use of state vehicles during his campaign for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and unearned mileage reimbursements, which he later repaid to the state.

Shortly thereafter, Grisham rescinded the newspaper’s credentials to be on the House floor during the governor’s State of the State address in response to the story. Gowan’s administration later reversed that decision. 

Several months later, Gowan tried to implement a new background check policy for journalists that would have barred the Capitol Times reporter who wrote the offending articles from the House floor. In an interview with the Phoenix New Times, Grisham denied that the background check policy was intended as revenge against the reporter. Gowan reversed the policy several days after it went into effect.

Grisham joined the Attorney General’s Office at a time when Horne was embroiled in scandal over alleged coordination with an independent expenditure committee during his 2010 campaign, charges for which he was largely exonerated after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk deprived him of due process. She told reporters at the time that she was looking for a challenge. 

Grisham later became part of another Horne scandal during his re-election campaign. She was among a handful of Horne staffers who were doubling as campaign aides, including during work hours, which was part of a broader issue with Horne using official resources for his 2014 campaign. Horne later paid a $10,000 fine to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. 

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”