Asked earlier this month if he’d run for office again following his historic expulsion from the Arizona House of Representatives, former legislator Don Shooter said, “Hell no.
Now Shooter claims he’s willing to serve, but only if a small band of Yuma Republicans can gather enough petitions for the disgraced politician to qualify for the ballot. Shooter was voted out of the Legislature in February after a House investigation found he serially sexually harassed colleagues and lobbyists.
Sally Kizer, who chairs the Colorado River Tea Party, said Shooter reached out to her last week and asked her to circulate his nominating petitions. Shooter used to be first vice chair of her tea party organization, Kizer said, and she and others are gathering signatures for his potential candidacy. Petitions are due May 30.
Shooter told the Arizona Capitol Times that he was first approached by a handful of loyalists who wanted to collect petitions for him. He then reached out to more supporters who wanted to help, Shooter said, adding he’s comfortable with a late push to get his name on the ballot.
“You gotta remember that I was drafted the first go around, and these are only my core supporters I’m sure,” Shooter said, referring to his first legislative campaign in 2010. “They said, ‘Aren’t you gonna run,’ and I said, ‘Well, I didn’t plan on it.’”
Shooter claimed not to care whether they accomplish their goal. But when they offered to gather signatures for him, Shooter said he told them, “If you get the petitions, I guess I’ll run… If people want me to work and serve, I’ll go.”
Shooter would not say how many signatures he’d already gathered prior to his expulsion from the House, or speculate on the odds he’ll gather the 474 petitions necessary to qualify for the Republican primary in Legislative District 13.
“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out,” he said. “Then we’ll find out if the voters really care about the stuff that’s happened or if they care about having an effective legislature.”
If he qualifies, Shooter would be a candidate for the district’s state Senate seat, which he held from 2013 to 2017 before serving in the House.
Constantin Querard, Shooter’s former consultant who now represents incumbent LD13 Sen. Sine Kerr, said his recollection is that Shooter had somewhere between 400 and 500 signatures collected last year — a candidate would be well served to submit at least 700 to make up for invalid signatures, he added.
Shooter spoke dismissively of the conclusions of a House investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment made against the former representative and senator, sparked by claims from a fellow lawmaker.
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, first named Shooter as one of the men in the Legislature who had harassed her. She told KTVK (Channel 3) political reporter Dennis Welch that Shooter asked about her chest in her office and came uninvited to her room with beer at a work conference, where she didn’t answer the door.
After Ugenti-Rita came forward, eight other women told stories of inappropriate, sexually charged comments and unwanted touching. An independent investigation produced a report detailing his repeated violation of a House harassment policy by creating a hostile work environment for female colleagues, other lawmakers, lobbyists and an intern at the Arizona Legislature.
Shooter alleges in a notice of claim that the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and staff members in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office conspired to remove him from office in an effort to prevent him from uncovering “serious issues of malfeasance in state government contracts.”
Some voters would hold Shooter’s expulsion and the allegations that led to it against him, Querard said. But other voters may view the allegations as “fake news” and a “political hit job,” he said, meaning Shooter could be a factor in the race.
“I would take him very seriously in a primary,” Querard said.
Perhaps, Shooter said, there are voters who remember him more as he described himself: an effective legislator.
“I’m a Kentucky hillbilly. I have never suffered from ambition. I haven’t,” Shooter said. “But I’m willing to serve, if people want me to, because I think I was a decent legislator.”
Besides, he quipped, “I got nothing to lose. What are you going to do, fire me? You’re going to kill me twice?”