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LD16 Republicans to nominate new AZ state senator

Sen. Rich Crandall (Submitted photo)

Sen. Rich Crandall (Submitted photo)

Select precinct committeemen in Legislative District 16 will spend the evening of Sept. 7 choosing three nominees to serve as the next state senator from Mesa.

Officials with the district’s Republican Party are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. to nominate three candidates to represent Legislative District 16 in the Arizona Senate.

The slate of nominees will be forwarded to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who will choose one of the three to serve as their appointee to the Senate to fill the vacancy left by former Sen. Rich Crandall.

Crandall’s seat was declared vacant by Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, on Aug. 22, after the former senator again pushed back the date of resignation.

The Mesa Republican first told the Arizona Capitol Times in March that he planned to resign from the Senate this summer, and the drawn-out process left LD16 Republicans with plenty of time to contemplate who might serve the remainder of Crandall’s term.

District GOP Chairman Jerry Clingman and former Rep. John Fillmore are considered favorites to garner nominations, according to some political observers.

Also seeking the appointment to the Senate are Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, District GOP Vice-chair Mara Benson, and former lawmaker Dave Farnsworth.

Only LD16 precinct committeemen from Maricopa County can vote in the nomination process at the Liberty Arts Academy in Mesa. According to rules governing appointments to the Senate, the new lawmaker must be a resident of the district and of the same county where the former lawmaker resided.

In this case, Crandall lived in Mesa while serving as senator, so only Maricopa County officials will have a say in the process, leaving Pinal County precinct committeemen as spectators.

Whoever is chosen by the LD16 GOP and then the Board of Supervisors will serve the remainder of Crandall’s term, set to expire at the end of next year.

Clingman, Fillmore and Townsend received a boost from former Senate President Russell Pearce, a Mesa resident from Legislative District 25 who endorsed the three Senate hopefuls. They are a slate of nominees who could “keep our Legislature conservative” and provide “strong moral leadership,” Pearce wrote in an email to LD16 precinct committeemen.

Nominating other candidates could increase the chance of “less than conservative folks” being selected as the Senate appointee by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Pearce wrote.

Clingman said he appreciated Pearce’s endorsement, and noted that other newcomers to the appointment process haven’t been vetted for as long as he and the two others.

Townsend and Fillmore did not respond for comment.

“It’s a good strong slate to make sure that we do get a decent constitutional conservative in there,” Clingman said.

Nominating Fillmore could complicate the appointment process, however. The former representative recently changed his voter registration from Pinal County, where he lives in Apache Junction, to Maricopa County, declaring his residency at an apartment at the same site as his business in Mesa.

Despite changing his residency in time for the appointment process, Fillmore may not meet the qualifications for office.  According to the Secretary of State’s Office, lawmakers must have lived in the district and county in which they’ll serve for at least one year prior to taking office.

The matter will likely be decided in court after Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels, challenged the appointment of Sen. Carlyle Begay, a Democrat appointed to Legislative District 7 in July who claimed residency in Ganado but claimed residency in Gilbert just months prior to taking office.

Fillmore has said he meets the requirements to legally gain the appointment.

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