Nicholas Fontana, a Tucson criminal defense attorney who will replace former Rep. Daniel Patterson in the Arizona House of Representatives, said he switched his life-long Democratic affiliation to independent, just so he would qualify for the seat.
Fontana, whom the Pima County Board of Supervisors appointed to fill the vacant LD29 seat by a 3-2 vote this morning, said he sees himself as a “caretaker” of the position and said he has no intention to run for election in the fall.
“I plan to work for the people of southern Arizona, address constituent concerns and work on the budget,” Fontana said. “I have no plans on running for office at the end of this term.”
House Democratic leadership said at a press conference today that they will ask Fontana to caucus with them, but Fontana was less clear about his intentions. Fontana said he would like to be able to caucus with southern Arizona legislators as a whole.
“I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into one camp or the other. I would prefer to have lines of communication open with both sides,” Fontana said.
Fontana said, however, that his policy priorities line up more closely with Democrats, particularly on education and social services funding.
Fontana owns his own criminal defense firm in Tucson and serves as a Judge Pro Tem with the Tohono O’odham Tribal Court. Between 2002 and 2010 he was a Pascua Yaqui Public Defender.
Fontana said he got his first taste of politics as a constituent caseworker for Mo Udall.
Fontana said he has never had a relationship with Patterson.
Patterson resigned from the Legislature this month rather than face an expulsion vote for his role in a February domestic violence incident with his ex-girlfriend.
The former Democratic lawmaker registered as an independent after members of his own party filed an ethics complaint against him and called on him to resign.
Patterson re-registered as a Democrat the day he resigned, but state elections officials determined it was done too late for Pima County to appoint a Democrat to his former seat.
- Pima County Dem chair: Patterson re-registered as a Democrat before resigning
- Patterson late to the party
- I’d like to buy a vowel
- Patterson resigns before expulsion vote
- Patterson lashes out against fellow Dems
- Patterson demands ethics hearing to cross-examine accusers
- Patterson charged with 4 counts of domestic violence
- Democrats call on one of their own to resign