Shooter eligible to run for LD13 senate seat, judge rules

Carmen Forman//June 15, 2018

Shooter eligible to run for LD13 senate seat, judge rules

Carmen Forman//June 15, 2018

Expelled Arizona House Rep. Don Shooter, right, arrives at court with attorney Tim Nelson, left, Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Phoenix. A Maricopa County judge says she'll decide tomorrow whether the former Yuma lawmaker, Shooter, expelled from the state House of Representatives after sexual harassment allegations can run for state Senate. Another Republican candidate, Brent Backus, filed a lawsuit saying Shooter couldn't run because he lives in Phoenix, not Yuma. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Expelled Arizona House Rep. Don Shooter, right, arrives at court with attorney Tim Nelson, left, Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Former Yuma Rep. Don Shooter will get a chance at a political comeback.

Shooter, a Republican who was expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives in February for sexually harassing women, meets the residency requirements to run for the Legislative District 13 state Senate seat, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz ruled today.

Mroz granted Shooter’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that he does not live in the Yuma district he is hoping to represent once again. Shooter’s Republican primary opponent Brent Backus brought the lawsuit against the former lawmaker.

Shooter celebrated the judge’s decision Friday.

“I look forward to the opportunity of serving the people of District 13 again,” Shooter said via text message. The ruling does not guarantee Shooter regains a seat in the Legislature, but allows Shooter’s name on the August primary ballot.

The judge found that Shooter’s Yuma condo is and has been the former lawmaker’s primary residence. Shooter has been a Yuma resident for at least a year, and was a resident of the county when he filed his nominating petitions to run for office, the judge ruled.

Lawmakers are required to reside in the county they are running in for at least one year prior to the election, according to a constitutional provision.

Backus’ attorney Timothy LaSota said they will likely appeal the decision, which would take the case to the Arizona Supreme Court.

“If this were to stand as precedent … the qualification for running for office are that you rent an apartment in the district you want to run from. You don’t even need power,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what the voters of the state had in mind when they passed the requirement that politicians have residency in the district they run from.”
“And I do think the Supreme Court will see it that way.”

The ruling comes a day after Shooter testified in court that the power had been turned off at his Yuma condo — his primary residence — and that he spends roughly two-thirds of his time at a Maricopa County home he shares with his wife Susan Shooter.

The judge accepted Shooter’s explanation on why the electricity was turned off. Shooter said that his wife turned off the power to save money. But he elaborated, saying he didn’t know the power was turned off because the electricity worked every time he was at his Yuma condo.

Shooter also testified that he did not change his voter registration, which was changed to a Maricopa County address for a two-week period before he launched a campaign from Yuma for his old state Senate seat. On the witness stand, Shooter said he does not know how his registration was changed on April 30, and said he changed it back to Yuma on May 14 upon discovering the discrepancy. Shooter’s wife also registered to vote in Maricopa County on April 30.

Evidence supports that Shooter did, in fact, change his voter registration, but that is not conclusive evidence that Shooter changed his place of residence, Mroz wrote in her ruling.

Tim Nelson, Shooter’s attorney, argued that the former lawmaker’s intent has always been to return to Yuma, even if he sometimes stays with his wife at their Maricopa County home. Shooter said his wife has not been up to his Yuma condo since he was expelled from the Legislature on February 1.

Shooter continues to receive mail at his Yuma condo, he pays rent on the condo, has visitors over and keeps the home furnished, the defense showed. That evidence showed Shooter always intended to return to Yuma, Mroz wrote.

Shooter was in his Yuma condo when he found out his residency was being challenged.

“It was kind of funny, when I heard about the lawsuit that I didn’t live there, I was sitting in my living room,” he said.