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Recall petition filed against Kavanagh


Rep. John Kavanagh (File Photo)

Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills is the third public official in the state facing a possible recall campaign, as opponents filed a recall petition against him today citing “attacks on students, LGBTQ individuals and attempts to thwart legitimate recall efforts.”

Brianna Pantilione, the vice president of policy at ASU undergraduate student government, is heading the effort to recall the seven-year incumbent.  As reasons for the recall, she cited his bills to prevent student fees from being spent on political purposes, his high-profile “bathroom bill” and his bill instituting a partisan primary in the recall campaign process.  She said the group is going after Kavanagh because he isn’t a limited-government conservative as he said he was on the campaign trail.

“He promised he would be an advocate for small government and fiscal responsibility and that’s not what we’re seeing from him. We’re seeing legislation that tries to overrule city councils, tries to get into the universities and student organizations he disagrees with,” she said, noting that she is a limited government advocate who has been active in the Libertarian student group, Students for Liberty.

Pantilione said she believes her organization, Raise the Bar Arizona, can get the money and support to gather the necessary roughly 17,000 valid signatures in about four months that it will take to force a recall.

“We have a number of organizations interested in helping us out as well as a lot of individual donors,” she said.

But Kavanagh said he isn’t worried about the recall, which he called a misguided attempt to take him out by the LGBTQ community.

“I’m more concerned about the legislative session ending before my recall election than I am about the recall election,” he joked, referring to predictions that the 2013 session could go on for a long time.    He noted the recall couldn’t take place before March 2014, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Kavanagh said he plans to wait and see if they get the signatures before filing a recall campaign committee to defend himself against the group.

He said the recall effort is blowback at least in part for his “bathroom bill” which, as originally drafted would make it a class 1 misdemeanor for someone to knowingly use a bathroom marked for a different sex than is on their birth certificate. He has since redrafted the legislation to prohibit cities from enacting legislation regulating access to privacy areas like bathrooms based on gender identity or expression of the bathroom user.

“I’m getting government out of the business of getting involved in what restrooms, showers and locker rooms, people can use, so I’m actually shrinking government. So maybe when they see (the new version of the legislation) they’ll see that they jumped the gun and I’m not doing what they claim I’m doing,” he said.

He said the use of recalls has gotten out of hand, and people are abusing the procedure to make political points. This is not the first time Kavanagh has faced the threat of a recall – after vocally supporting SB1070 in 2010, Somos Republicans, a Latino Republican group, threatened to recall him, he said, but never filed the paperwork or gathered signatures.

“I would much rather not have a recall but if I’m going to cower and not represent my constituents every time someone threatens a recall, then I’m not a very good representative,” he said.

Recall drives previously were launched against Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

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