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Replacement timeline delayed

Sen. Rich Crandall (File photo)

Sen. Rich Crandall (File photo)

Senator stays on state payroll while working new job in Wyoming

Arizona Sen. Rich Crandall won’t resign from the state Senate until Aug. 31 in order to maintain health insurance coverage for two of his children.

Crandall, who began working as the director of the Wyoming Department of Education on Aug. 5, announced recently his resignation would take effect on Aug. 16.

But the Mesa Republican told the Arizona Capitol Times on Aug. 19 that, because his insurance coverage in Arizona would terminate immediately upon his resignation, he’ll continue to maintain his status as a senator until Aug. 31, after which his insurance as a Wyoming employee will begin on Sept. 1.

Crandall said two of his children have serious pre-existing conditions, though both are healthy.

“I can’t have a two-week lapse in health insurance,” he said.

In fact, Crandall could resign at any time during the Legislature’s current pay period, which lasts until Aug. 30, and still maintain coverage until the period ends, according to Senate staff. But that would leave the senator’s family without insurance for one day, Aug. 31.

Crandall notified Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake of his decision on Aug. 20, shortly before delivering his letter of resignation to Biggs’ office.

Crandall said Biggs was not pleased with the delayed resignation, but that his children’s health care coverage trumps any ill feelings.

“He wasn’t exactly happy about that, but I don’t care,” Crandall said.

Crandall will continue to collect pay as an Arizona legislator until his formal resignation.

Including mileage expenses and one day’s per diem, the senator will earn $1,997.50 between Aug. 5, his first day on the job in Wyoming, and Aug. 31, according to the Senate comptroller.

Appointment put on hold

The delay in Crandall’s resignation pushes back the timeline for appointing his replacement, a process Legislative District 16 GOP Chairman Jerry Clingman said can’t begin until the senator has actually resigned his elected office.

“It would be nice to have this over so we can move onto some other things, but I guess it’s only another couple of weeks,” Clingman said.

However, a number of interested candidates have emerged to seek the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ appointment to the Senate seat, among them Clingman, Rep. Kelly Townsend, and former lawmaker John Fillmore.

Clingman said precinct committeemen in LD16 are eager to place a more conservative Republican in office, and appear ready to hit the ground running as soon as they receive notice of a vacancy from the Secretary of State’s Office.

“To most of the precinct committeemen, he hasn’t been a really good representative of our conservative principles,” Clingman said. “He’s always been more of a big government type of person.”

To some Senate hopefuls, the appointment process presents an easier opportunity to gain access to the mathematically more exclusive Senate chamber. Dave Farnsworth, a Mesa Republican who served in the Legislature as a representative in 1995-1996 when he lived in Snowflake, twice ran for the Senate and lost.

“An appointment, even though there’s no guarantees, it’s certainly more manageable than a regular campaign,” said Farnsworth, who is lobbying for support from LD16 precinct committeemen.

Farnsworth said he’s leaning heavily on his record as a lawmaker — a series of votes against big government spending, he said — as he courts votes for the nomination. He also appreciates having an opportunity to serve before sitting on the sidelines for several years.

“I think it’s a real advantage to me because I’ve been able to sit out, having served there and viewing life and the process a little differently,” Farnsworth said.

Looking for a placeholder

Farnsworth and other potential nominees were given an opportunity to present themselves to the precinct committeemen at a LD16 GOP meeting this month. The only candidate absent from the meeting was Mara Benson, the first vice chair of the district Republican Party.

One thing none of the candidates seem to disagree on is whether they’d like to stay in office after serving out the remainder of Crandall’s term. Clingman said the “powers that be” — members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who will ultimately select an appointee from among the three nominees provided by the precinct committeemen — are looking for a placeholder in the Senate to allow a new lawmaker to seek election in 2014 without an incumbent running for office.

“They’re more interested in getting in a placeholder, if you will, and I can understand that because they don’t necessarily want to be responsible for creating an incumbent and giving someone an unfair advantage (in an election),” Clingman said.

Clingman said that while he’d be comfortable serving as a placeholder and has no intention to retain office, he won’t rule out running in 2014 “if it was demanded by the people of LD16.”

Townsend and Farnsworth both said they’re not interested in serving in the Senate for only 16 months.

Farnsworth said he doesn’t see the logic in waiting for an open primary and general election to find a more permanent replacement, and suggested that doing so could open the process up to “carpetbaggers and outside parties moving in and electing someone who is not native or loyal to our district” — a feeling that many precinct committeemen have about their current senator.

Townsend said seeking a placeholder would be an unseemly political move by the Board of Supervisors, who should instead simply select the most qualified nominee.

“I’m confident that the Maricopa County supervisors are concerned with integrity and would not insert politics into the appointment process — meaning putting in a placeholder so that a preferred candidate can emerge in the meantime for the 2014 election,” Townsend said. “Doing something to that effect would be a political move and disastrous for those supervisors who went in that direction.”

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri said supervisors are willing to pick whoever is the most qualified candidate from among the three nominees presented to the board, and any talk of inserting politics into the process has simply come up because there’s been so much time to talk about the process.

Crandall announced months ago his intent to resign this year, giving politicos in LD16 plenty of time to opine over a host of scenarios, Chucri said.

“If it’s their judgment that they want someone to fill the seat for the remainder of the term, then so be it,” Chucri said. “If it’s someone that they say they believe in and want to run for re-election, then so be it… from my perspective, I’m simply waiting to hear and to see what the will of the district is.”

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