Republican Kimberly Yee, a well known policy advisor, took her oath as the Legislature’s newest member on Aug. 4.
The Maricopa Board of Supervisors appointed Yee to the House two days before as a replacement to Doug Quelland, who was removed from office for violating campaign-finance laws.
Longtime friend Phoenix Municipal Court Chief Presiding Judge Roxanne Song Ong administered the oath.
Yee will be the state’s first female member of Asian descent, according to the House.
That she’s now a representative helps elevate Yee’s profile in Legislative District 10, where she is running in a four-way primary race for the same House position she now occupies.
“It sends the message that we now have a leader in that position who those voters in District 10 can look to, to be a voice at the state Legislature,” Yee said.
Yee’s family and several House representatives and staff members attended the formal ceremony.
Minutes before the oath-taking, House Speaker Kirk Adams led a committee that reviewed Yee’s credentials.
In an earlier news release, Adams said he’s pleased the board picked “such a respected and qualified candidate” to fill the vacancy.
Yee has been in the public affairs arena for more than a dozen years.
Prior to her position in the state Treasurer’s Office, she was deputy cabinet secretary to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a senior research analyst in the Arizona Senate and a policy analyst for the state Board of Education in California Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Aug. 2 to select Yee to fill the House District 10 seat for the rest of the year.
Yee was appointed in favor of two other finalists, Henry GrosJean and Francine Romesburg.
GrosJean said he wasn’t surprised that the board chose Yee, but he was critical of the pick.
“It’s Arizona’s version of Chicago politics,” he said. “Linda Gray is a good friend of the … supervisors and so she’s pushing for Yee. She’s already on the ballot so why would they give her a preferential ruling like that?”
Gray laughed off the reference to Chicago-style politicking.
“There was no pay off or anything like that. That (reference) kind of surprises me,” she said.
GrosJean also said he didn’t receive any invitation from the Maricopa Board of Supervisors to attend the meeting that decided Quelland’s replacement.
“I was never invited in the first place,” he said.
Romesburg said she had no sour grapes about the process except that she was never notified a selection was made or that there was a Board of Supervisors meeting to announce it.
Had she known, Romesburg said she would have been there.
“I just know we had a legal vote, a true vote,” Romesburg said.
Yee was the only nominee who showed up during the board meeting.
But Yee said she, too, wasn’t formally invited, although she’s subscribed to the board’s email alert and therefore gets a heads up about meetings.
Yee resigned Aug. 3 as communications director in state Treasurer Dean Martin’s office.
Supervisor Max Wilson said that besides interviewing the candidates, he also spoke with Gov. Jan Brewer and Adams about the selection.
Yee, who was Brewer’s choice to fill the spot, could be going to work soon if the governor calls a special session to address changes to S1070, Arizona’s strict new immigration law whose key provisions were blocked July 28 by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton.
Gray, a Republican from Glendale, said Yee already has a good understanding of the legislative process.
“I’ve supported Kimberly for a number of years and encouraged her to run for office. And that comes from my 14 years of knowing her and her high qualifications,” she said.
Quelland was removed from office in May after the courts upheld allegations by the Clean Elections Commission that he paid a consultant $15,000 for campaign purposes in 2008, a violation of rules for publicly funded candidates.
Quelland, who has maintained his innocence, did not return a call seeking comment.
In addition to Yee, Bill Adams, Quelland and Rep. Jim Weiers are vying for the two legislative seats.
Reporter Gary Grado contributed to this report