An embattled Tucson lawmaker this morning formally left the Democratic Party and became the Legislature’s only independent.
Rep. Daniel Patterson announced on Twitter this morning that he was no longer a Democrat. He told Arizona Capitol Times that he made the decision in an effort to better represent the constituents of Legislative District 29. He said it has nothing to do with a House ethics investigation into him about allegations that he physically assaulted an ex-girlfriend in February.
“Having no official party registration allows me to better serve them,” he said. “I don’t need a political party to tell me how to vote.”
Patterson said he had grown frustrated with the “failed system of partisan politics” and had been thinking about becoming an independent “for a long time,” and decided this morning to change his registration online. He said that he expects the change will give voters in his district confidence that he will be voting in their best interests.
“I think it will reassure people in my district and send a signal…that we now have a true independent in the Legislature,” he said.
An ethics complaint was filed against Patterson in late February, several days after he allegedly got into a fight with Georgette Escobar, his former live-in girlfriend and campaign manager. Escobar alleged that he shoved her to the ground and bruised her. She got a restraining order against Patterson, and the lawmaker was charged with four counts of misdemeanor domestic violence.
The ethics complaint was signed be every member of the House Democratic caucus except for the two Democrats who serve on the House Ethics Committee. Prominent Democrats also called for him to resign his legislative seat, including House Minority Leader Chad Campbell and Luis Heredia, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party.
However, late last month, a post allegedly written by Escobar on her Facebook page recanted her allegations and urged the criminal charges and ethics investigation be dropped.
The House Ethics Committee last month hired attorneys to investigate the complaint, and their report is expected to be made public later today. The panel is expected to meet this week to evaluate the investigative report and decide whether to proceed with an ethics trial.
Heredia said Patterson will be held accountable by voters in the fall for switching parties, but said he was not surprised or bothered that the lawmaker left the Democratic Party.
“Every week, there’s something new with Patterson. This is just the latest chapter,” he said.
Campbell would not comment on Patterson’s decision to leave the Democratic Party to become an independent, and said it ultimately won’t matter.
“This has nothing to do with partisan politics,” he said. “If you’re acting in a way that is illegal and unethical, you have to be held accountable.”
Calls to Democratic Party leaders in Tucson were not immediately returned.
Derek Quizon contributed to this report