The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that former lawmaker Don Shooter can stay on the ballot in August.
A panel of four justices upheld a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s ruling that Shooter’s primary residence is in Yuma, rejecting arguments that he lived outside Legislative District 13 and failed to meet the residency requirements to run for the district’s Senate seat. Brent Backus, another GOP challenger for the Senate seat, had argued that Shooter actually resides in Phoenix, and therefore would be ineligible to represent the district that stretches from Yuma to Wickenburg.
Shooter is mounting a comeback after he was expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives in February for sexually harassing women. By remaining on the ballot, he’ll have a shot to return to the Capitol less than a year after his expulsion.
“Every now and then the good guys win one,” Shooter wrote the Arizona Capitol Times in a text message.
Shooter acknowledged to living in Phoenix during the 2017 Legislative Session with his wife, Susan Shooter, in a Biltmore-area home that he has an ownership stake in. And he acknowledged to living at that Phoenix home since he was expelled from the House, facts that the justices didn’t dispute.
But the justices agreed with the lower court’s ruling that Shooter maintains a residence in Yuma, an apartment he’s lived in for five years, and always intended to return there.
Even a brief change in Shooter’s voter registration — for two weeks he re-registered with his wife as a Maricopa County resident before re-registering in Yuma again — supported his intent to keep Yuma as his home, the justices found.
“That Shooter, after two weeks of being registered to vote in Maricopa County, reestablished his registration in Yuma County, where he has continuously voted since 2006, is ‘strong proof’ that he resides in Yuma County,” Vice Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote.
Justices John Pelander, Ann A. Scott Timmer and John R. Lopez also served on the panel reviewing the appeal.
Timothy La Sota, an attorney for Backus, found it odd that the justices used that bit of information to fortify Shooter’s claim to residency in Yuma. 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.
“I thought that was strong proof that he didn’t” live in Yuma, La Sota said.
Shooter will now face Backus and the incumbent, Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, in the GOP primary election on Aug. 28.