A state senator charged with multiple sex crimes against children resigned Tuesday afternoon, days after his arrest.
Tony Navarrete, who represented west Phoenix in Legislative District 30, sent Senate president Karen Fann, Minority Leader Rebecca Rios and Democratic Chief of Staff Jeff Winkler a one-sentence email just after 2 p.m. Tuesday.
“Effective immediately, I am officially resigning my post as Arizona State Senator for District 30,” he wrote.
Navarrete has been charged with seven felonies, including sexual conduct with a minor, attempted sexual conduct with a minor and child molestation, for interactions with two teenage boys over the course of several years. He faces nearly 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges, and his next court date is Thursday.
Under state law, his replacement must also be a Democrat. Because there are fewer than 30 elected precinct committeemen in LD30, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will appoint a citizen panel to pick three potential replacements, then the supervisors will choose the next senator from that group. Historically, the board lets the supervisor whose district contains the legislative district make that choice, so Steve Gallardo, the sole Democrat on the five-member board, will likely decide.
Navarrete has faced mounting pressure to resign since details of the charges against him became public Friday. He stands accused of several sexual encounters with a teenage boy over the course of several years, and attempted sexual contact with another boy who slapped his hand away.
Fann and Rios released a joint statement Tuesday afternoon welcoming his resignation.
“This was the right thing to do considering the serious allegations,” they said. “We know that the Arizona Judicial Branch will deliver justice and pray for healing and support for all victims.”
Navarrete’s resignation makes an ethics complaint filed yesterday by Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, moot. Townsend wanted a Senate investigation into the charges against Navarrete, any additional allegations of sexual misconduct and the motives behind his work on sex education legislation. The Senate ethics committee only investigates complaints against sitting senators.
This is also the third time in the past four years that the Legislature has lost a lawmaker to a sex-related scandal. In 2018, the House of Representatives expelled former Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, and in 2019, former Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, resigned after decades-old charges that he had paid a boy with intellectual disabilities for sex resurfaced in a House ethics investigation.
This is a developing story and will be updated
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Legislative District 30 precinct committeemen will nominate three candidates from which the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will choose to replace Tony Navarrete. The actual selection process is in the fifth paragraph.