Arizona State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) took a moment on the Senate Floor Wednesday to call on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (MCBOS) to perform its duties and fill vacancies in the Arizona State Legislature.
“The length of these vacancies is the longest, while we’ve been in session, in a half-century, 56 years,” Mesnard said. “I went back and looked; what’s the average time it takes from the point of vacancy to the point of fulfilling the vacancy? 8.76 days is the average.”
"The length of time of these vacancies is the longest, while we've been in session, in a half a century! 56 years!"
— AZSenateRepublicans (@AZSenateGOP) May 3, 2023
Currently, Arizona has two legislative seats to fill, one in each house. These openings were created in April when the House expelled State Representative Liz Harris (R-Chandler) after the House Ethics Committee found she committed “disorderly behavior” and when State Senator Raquel Terán (D-Phoenix) resigned from her position to focus on a run for Congress.
Under Arizona law, if there is a legislative vacancy, the Secretary of State (SOS) must notify the chair of whichever political party the lawmaker belongs to. Once the party is notified, it is up to elected precinct committeemen (PC), who have to find nominations from the legislative district (LD) where the seat is open. The political party leader then holds a meeting and decides on three nominees to send to the county BOS. The board then interviews the nominees and makes a final decision on who will take the seat. However, the law does not mandate a timeframe for making the appointment.
On April 19th, Maricopa County revealed the three nominees for each seat. For Harris’s position in LD-13, the nominations are Harris herself, Julie Willoughby, and Steve Steele. As for Terán’s position in LD-26, the choices are Cesar Aguilar, Flavio Bravo, and Quantá Crews. The MCBOS conducted the interviews for LD-13 on Wednesday, May 3rd.
However, Mesnard argued that it took too long for the county to interview nominees after receiving the list. He also shared concerns that the MCBOS may take longer to name the appointment after the interviews. Because the law does not state how quickly the board must provide the replacement, Mesnard said that may need to change.
“I would advocate that we’re going to have to change the statute because when we’re in session, my constituents should be represented fully in the Legislature,” Mesnard said.
Additionally, Mesnard alleged that the county was being slow for political reasons but emphasized that this was only a rumor he had heard.
In response to Mesnard’s accusation, the Maricopa County communications director Fields Moseley told The Arizona Sun Times via email that what the state senator said was false and the rumors were incorrect. Moreover, he said that the 8.76 average is not a fair depiction of the county.
“Assuming he researched half a century of appointments, the good senator compares appointing legislators today to the decades before computers when Maricopa County was a rural community with fewer than one-million people,” Moseley told The Sun Times.
According to Moseley, the SOS notified the board of the LD-13 absence on April 12th, then regarding LD-26 a day later. Both political parties delivered the nominees on April 18th, and the board then had to conduct a background search on each of them. Moseley stated the county received an incorrect email for one of the nominees in LD-13, and not all the nominees gave their permission right away, so the board could not conduct the checks until the week of April 24th.
He stated the board had followed the law and was moving along with the process. Interviews for the LD-26 position are scheduled for Friday. Moseley said he expects a decision on the appointments soon.
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