Rich Crandall is no longer an Arizona state senator.
The Mesa Republican’s seat was declared vacant by Senate President Andy Biggs on Aug. 22, days after Crandall notified Biggs that his resignation won’t take effect until midnight on Aug. 31.
But Biggs, R-Gilbert, declared that Crandall’s Legislative District 16 seat is now open, citing a portion of Arizona law that declares a legislative office can be deemed vacant when a lawmaker is no longer a resident of the district.
Crandall, who Senate officials said was forwarded a copy of the same letter, did not respond to calls for comment.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Ken Bennett on Aug. 22, Biggs said Crandall’s recent move to Cheyenne, where he has worked for the state of Wyoming since Aug. 5, was evidence of his “abandonment” of his legislative office.
“While I appreciate that former Senator Crandall, now serving as the Director of Education in Wyoming, is having trouble letting go of his office in Arizona, I think it is best if the constituents of Legislative District 16 are able to immediately begin the process of appointing a replacement,” Biggs wrote.
Biggs’ letter also noted that, were Crandall to continue to hold office, the state’s taxpayers would “continue to pay the salary and other costs of a person who is no longer qualified to serve as an Arizona State senator.”
Bennett promptly sent a letter to state GOP Chairman Robert Graham on Aug. 22 notifying the party of the vacant seat, setting in motion the process to appoint a new state senator to serve the remainder of Crandall’s term.
LD16 precinct committeemen are well prepared to begin the process – GOP District Chair Jerry Clingman was preparing to begin the nomination process on Aug. 16, the date Crandall first announced his resignation would take effect.
But Crandall later sent a letter to Biggs declaring his resignation would take effect on Aug. 31 in order to maintain health insurance coverage for his family before gaining coverage as a Wyoming employee on Sept. 1.
Biggs wrote he’d personally received notice that Crandall could resign any date after Aug. 16 and still maintain coverage from Arizona through the end of the month. And despite the fact that Crandall was made aware of this, he refused to amend his resignation date, according to Senate officials.
Biggs described Crandall’s actions throughout the resignation process as “indefensible.”
“We had several phone conversations where I told him, I said, ‘You need to do what’s best for that district, you need to do it as soon as possible, they’ve been without representation,’ and I asked him to revise his resignation by Thursday at noon,” Biggs told the Arizona Capitol Times.
A Senate staffer said it was “absolutely” under the purview of the Senate president’s office to declare a seat vacant according to state law.
And Biggs said he received legal counsel that indicated he was well within his authority to declare Crandall’s seat vacant based on the former senator’s move to Wyoming.
Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said its role is simply to forward along the notice of vacancy to the appropriate state party.
Recent resignations have gone much more smoothly than Crandall’s own process, Biggs noted.
“Jack Jackson resigned this year. Jack Jackson said he’d resign effective the twelfth of July… he came in on the eleventh and he delivered his letter of resignation. He just took care of it,” Biggs said. “What’s happened with Director Crandall has been a long, drawn out process.”
Graham said party officials are finalizing a date to select three nominees for the Senate seat. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will then select one of the nominees as the appointee to the LD16 seat.
Biggs’ letter declaring Crandall’s seat vacant
Crandall’s resignation letter