Rep. Albert Hale won’t go to court to challenge Sen. Carlyle Begay’s qualifications for office, but Hale may run against Begay for his Senate seat in 2014.
After attempts to get the Apache County Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General to oust Begay from his Senate seat were unsuccessful, Hale, D-St. Michaels, was left with the opportunity to pursue his own case. Begay was appointed to Senate from Legislative District 7 in July.
Hale has argued that Begay, who moved from his longtime residence in Gilbert to Ganado shortly before his appointment, doesn’t meet the residency requirements for office and is usurping his seat in the Senate.
But Hale declined to file his own lawsuit against Begay, citing the high costs of pursuing the case privately, said his attorney, Tom Ryan.
“It’s just going to be an expensive proposition for Hale to do,” Ryan told the Arizona Capitol Times. “He’s got work to do, he’s got an election coming up, and he’d rather be focused on that.”
Ryan said Hale is considering whether or not to challenge Begay for the LD7 Senate seat in 2014. Begay has already announced he’ll run for reelection to keep his appointed seat.
“I think you’re going to see Albert Hale take him on in the next election, and my money’s on Albert Hale,” Ryan said. “Mr. Begay has never had to campaign. He’s been gifted a number of positions over the years, but that’s not the same thing as getting out and campaigning.”
Neither Hale nor Begay could immediately be reached for comment.
Hale’s decision comes weeks after the Arizona Attorney General’s Office issued its opinion explaining why it wouldn’t pursues the necessary quo warranto action against Begay to remove him from office. Solicitor General Robert Ellman, who reviewed the matter for more than a month, wrote that the requirements for office outlined in the Arizona Constitution and state statutes regarding appointments “are ambiguous if not contradictory,” and would require further investigation to discover if Sen. Carlyle Begay is in fact usurping his office.
Hale and Begay have sparred over which of the requirements applies to the new senator – the constitutional provision that states alawmakers must have lived in the county and district they’ll represent for one year prior to taking office, or provisions in state statute regarding appointments that Begay’s attorneys say only require Begay to have lived in Apache County at the time of his appointment.
Until the matter of which requirement applies is resolved in court, Ellman recommended the attorney general stay out of the case.
Ryan provided the attorney general and Apache County attorneys stacks of evidence detailing Begay’s residency in Gilbert. The new senator has said he lived there for the last seven years on applications for the Greater Arizona Development Authority and the Gilbert Industrial Development Authority, a board that requires members to reside in the city.
None of Begay’s 10 previous known addresses are in Ganado, where he now claims residence as a Senate Democrat. Begay also changed his voter registration from Maricopa County to Apache County days before his appointment to the Senate.
“The thing is, it’s clear that Gilbert now has two senators, and one-third of the state and the entire Navajo Nation have no senators currently sitting in the state Senate,” Ryan said.
Ryan also questioned Begay’s ties to Gilbert and Senate President Andy Biggs, a Republican lawmaker from the city. Ryan suggested Democrats in the Senate should be wary of caucusing with Begay, who he called a “Democrat in name only.”
Biggs has said he’s never met Begay before his swearing in ceremony in August.
Begay has impressed lawmakers and officials enough to gain appointments to various boards, as recently January, when Begay gained the confirmation of the Senate for his post on the Greater Arizona Development Authority – an appointment made by Gov. Jan Brewer.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Energy and Military Committee in January, Begay testified that although he lives in the Phoenix area, his roots and heritage have always remained with the Navajo Nation.
Begay has also earned praise from his predecessor, former Sen. Jack Jackson, Jr., who vacated his Senate seat this summer after taking a position in Washington, D.C.