Clean Elections audit finds Rep. Rubalcava committed several campaign finance violations

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava
Rep. Jesus Rubalcava

The Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission approved the results of its comprehensive audit of Democratic Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, who stands accused of a series of campaign finance violations that could result in his eviction from office.

The audit stemmed from a random spot-check audit that threw up a series of red flags in Rubalcava’s publicly funded 2016 campaign for the state House in Legislative District 4.

Clean Elections Executive Director Tom Collins said based on the preliminary and final audit, Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess.

“There are substantial questions about virtually every expenditure, whether they be personal, campaign or otherwise, that occurred during this campaign,” Collins said.

Rubalcava has been so far unable to clear things up by providing additional documentation. Speaking at the commission meeting May 18 by phone, he said he knew his accounting was troubled, but he’s been cooperating with the auditors to the best of his ability.

The most damning of the audit’s findings is that, among several other infractions, Rubalcava commingled his personal funds with campaign funds and used campaign dollars to pay for personal expenses like out-of-state flights, hotels and meals.

Those two violations alone, if proven, are enough for the commission to seek Rubalcava’s expulsion from office under the Clean Elections Act.

State law says that any violation of laws requiring candidates to establish separate campaign bank accounts, or requiring candidates to return unused campaign money “shall result in disqualification of a candidate or forfeiture of office.”

That process, however, would only begin if a formal complaint is filed by Collins, who stressed to the commission that they were only adopting the results of the audit at the meeting, and that any possible enforcement measures would come after and separately from the audit.

After scouring Rubalcava’s campaign finance reports and bank statements, the auditors found a series of red flags, starting with the fact that Rubalcava didn’t deposit his initial Clean Elections funding in his campaign bank account.

Instead, he deposited it into his personal account, and later transferred $13,280 from his personal account to his campaign account. But the remaining $2,763 of Clean Elections funding wasn’t transferred.

Auditors also noted Rubalcava didn’t establish a petty cash fund, as required by law, and made repeated ATM withdrawals from his campaign account, which were not reported on his campaign finance reports.

He also made $4,653 in non-campaign withdrawals from his campaign fund, and another $3,635 in campaign withdrawals did not have a determinable purpose, according to the auditors. In total, the auditors found $9,209 in spending that was not included in Rubalcava’s campaign finance reports.

Those monies, auditors said, were used on things like tickets on Southwest Airlines and in-flight services, Starbucks in Los Angeles, hotels in Washington DC, Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.

Additionally, the auditors found Rubalcava violated laws requiring him to report all campaign expenditures and receipts, and Clean Elections rules requiring him to produce documentation for his campaign spending.

Rubalcava, a special education teacher in the Palo Verde Elementary School District, said he would have been able to provide more documentation, but he left it in a box in his classroom over the Christmas break and subsequently lost the box, which he said he hasn’t been able to find.

County supervisors choose Goodyear Democrat to fill Rubalcava’s seat

Geraldine Peten
Geraldine Peten

Longtime educator Geraldine Peten has been selected to replace former Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, D-Gila Bend, who resigned in July amid an investigation into his campaign finances.

Maricopa County District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo chose Peten from the top three candidates selected by a committee of Legislative District 4 residents. Gallardo’s fellow supervisors unanimously approved the appointment Wednesday morning.

Peten has worked as an education consultant since 2003.

Given Peten’s background, education is predictably high on her list of priorities. She declined to comment on specific, ongoing debates, like the expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholar Account program, but said the state’s current standing compared to the nation is “not good enough.”

“Education is always in flux,” she said. “It would be nice to get it stabilized, so we can focus more on our children and getting them better education, especially here in Arizona.”

She said her top priorities are immigration, incarceration, and challenges facing rural residents in her district, especially regarding water and labor.

Peten said she was elated and honored, and she emphasized the opportunity to bring more diversity to the House. Peten and Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, who attended Peten’s appointment, are the only two African American legislators in Arizona.

“There’s power in diversity,” Peten said. “You get different perspectives, not just racially but from different backgrounds, different people’s experiences, and we need that. Diversity brings strength and power in representing the people.”

Gallardo said it’s a moment for the state to celebrate because the district has never had an African American representative before Peten.

In addition to her doctorate in education from Northern Arizona University, Peten also holds master’s degrees in construction management from Arizona State University and in supervision and administration from Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

She served as superintendent of the Fort Thomas Unified School District from 2012 to 2014 and has held administrative roles at schools in Arizona and New Jersey, including principal at Pinnacle Education, Inc., a charter school in Tempe, and Piñon Unified School District on the Navajo Nation. She also spent five years as the construction manager for the Isaac School District and held positions at the Arizona Department of Education and several universities, according to the resume she submitted to the committee.

After the appointment, several supporters sitting with Peten cheered for and embraced her, some with tears in their eyes.

Before Gallardo announced his pick, District 4 Supervisor Clint Hickman, who was a part of the selection process alongside Gallardo, encouraged Peten to become more familiar with the rural folks she now represents.

Hickman acknowledged Peten is highly educated and told he told her to “sink her teeth” into topics important to the residents who are dependant on farming and agriculture, topics she is not yet versed in. Peten welcomed the advice.

But she does have experience in managing finances, Peten said, giving her the tools to avoid the mistakes of her predecessor.

Rubalcava resigned from the House in July in the midst of an ongoing Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission investigation.

In May, a Clean Elections audit found that Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess. He had combined his personal funds with campaign funds, and he used the campaign dollars to cover personal expenses, like flights out of state and hotels in Washington D.C., Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.

Those two violations alone – and they were joined by others – would have been reason enough for his removal from office under the Clean Elections Act. The investigation has not yet been concluded.

Peten was appointed to Rubalcava’s seat over candidates Maxine Hill, an Agua Fria Union High School District board member, and Jennie Ragsdale, a Buckeye Elementary School District board member.

The selection process was swift. Because the Maricopa County portion of the district does not have the 30 precinct committeemen required to nominate candidates, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors had to appoint a committee to choose three finalists to be considered by the supervisors. Then, it was up to Hickman and Gallardo to meet with the candidates, measure community support and check backgrounds.

“I really hope that I’m not appointing an axe murderer,” Hickman said, “but we don’t have the time to find that out.”

Gallardo also criticized the rushed timeline, which he said would have been understandable had the Legislature actually been in session.

Both supervisors suggested the issue should be brought to legislators for review.

Few lawmakers chalk up perfect attendance and voting records

Only 24 Arizona legislators managed to both attend work on all of the days they were expected during the 122-day session, and push a button each time there was a vote.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard responds to levity May 10 during a vote in the House on the final day of the 2017 Legislative session. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard responds to levity May 10 during a vote in the House on the final day of the 2017 Legislative session. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Two of those perfect record-holders were Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.

The adjournment of the 53rd Legislature’s first regular session marked Yarbrough’s eighth consecutive year with perfect attendance in the state Legislature. He has also voted on 100 percent of items up for vote since at least 2005, with one exception in 2011 when he only pressed his button for 99 percent of the 50th Legislature’s first regular session’s votes.

“My dad used to say to me, if you want to do a great job, you start by showing up every day,” Yarbrough said.

Thirty-one of Yarbrough’s legislative colleagues made it to work every day this session, too.

The Legislature only calculates attendance on the days the chambers actually do work, which is typically only Monday through Thursday. Some days the lawmakers vote more than once, and some days there are no bills up for vote at all.

All but three of Arizona’s state legislators pushed their buttons for at least 85 percent of floor votes during the 53rd legislative session.

The least frequent voter this session was Rep. Wenona Benally, R-Window Rock, who also happened to miss the most work days. She made it to 79 percent of her work days and only voted 65 percent of the time.

Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, had the second lowest voting record, only pushing a button for 78 percent of floor votes. Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Phoenix, and Rep. Jesus Rubalcava,  D-Gila Bend, are not far ahead of Gonzales, voting in 83 and 84 percent of all floor votes, respectively.

The 86 other legislators voted at least 85 percent of the time, and 36 legislators voted 100 percent of the time.

Sen. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, beat Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, for the second-worst attendance record by only 1 percent. Montenegro made it to the state Capitol 81 percent of the days he was expected. However, he still managed to vote 91 percent of the time. Hernandez showed up on 82 percent of his days and voted in 85 percent of floor votes.

Montenegro’s 2017 attendance and voting records both show a significant decrease in his overall presence from last year, when he was House majority leader and voted 98 percent of the time and showed up for 94 percent of his work days.



Geraldine ‘Gerae’ Peten: Newest lawmaker seeks to end ‘school-to-prison pipeline’

Cap Times Q&A

At a time when her party is fighting battles around school choice and public school funding, Rep. Geraldine “Gerae” Peten, D-Goodyear, the newest addition to the state House, may be just the ally Democrats needed.

Peten, appointed to replace former Rep. Jesus Rubalcava who resigned, holds a doctorate in education from Northern Arizona University, plus two master’s degrees in other areas. And she has a history in administrative roles. Those experiences have run the gamut of institutions, including as principal of Pinon Elementary School on the Navajo Nation and principal of Pinnacle Education, Inc., a charter school in Tempe, and they’ve shaped her perspective on a state she worries may be going back in time in more ways than one. Peten has worked as an education consultant for a firm based in Goodyear since 2003.

Rep. Geraldine Peten, D-Goodyear (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Geraldine Peten, D-Goodyear (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Obviously, education is a priority for you heading into the Legislature.

This state seems to fund charter schools more liberally than they do public schools. I feel that the funding is totally inadequate. We need to invest in education from kindergarten all the way through post-secondary. Just getting through high school isn’t enough. They also need either vocational, technical or college training, so they can get marketable jobs that will sustain a high quality of life and not be stuffed in that school-to-prison pipeline. That’s what I think happens. A personal example: When we moved here, my eldest son was in 11th grade, and he had six African-American friends who were in school with him at that time. He was the only one who graduated. The disproportionate number of African American boys and Hispanic boys who are suspended, expelled, whatever – all kinds of deterrents knock them out of school and into the prisons. It’s tragic.

Why do you think that is?

It’s called racism. People don’t like to say it, but it’s racism. Racial profiling – I don’t know how many times you’re stopped by the police a year. My son is stopped over 20 times just because he’s driving while black. It’s racism. We just need to admit it. You can’t work on a problem if you don’t admit that you have it.

How do you fight back in that case?

As you can see from my resume, my thing is to be well prepared, to be over-prepared in order to even get my foot in the door. That has worked for the most part. You just have to do the best you can with what you have and just go forward. When I first moved here as a single mom with two boys, practically every job I got I could’ve filed an EOC complaint. But when you are the head of your household and you have children, you have to choose your battles. Do you go to court and fight it, or do you find another job so you can support your children?

You have to survive. Honestly, when the civil rights law was passed in 1964, I was very gullible and naive and optimistic, I suppose. I thought that would pave the way, and everything would be fair and equitable. But it wasn’t. I think it lulled a lot of us into some sort of state of complacency.

Did what happened in Charlottesville surprise you?

No…  I almost feel like we’ve gone back 40 years. I felt at one point that we had made tremendous gains. We were talking about equity and diversity and honoring diversity. Now, that’s been pushed to the side.

What did you think of our president’s response?

I think he has a better speechwriter now… It wasn’t his authentic thoughts or beliefs. He shadowed what’s already been said. He’s not a peacemaker. His rhetoric usually incites anger. Like when he said there were good people on both sides. You’re telling me that white supremacy – there’s good in that?

When my youngest son started kindergarten, he had made a new friend. Six weeks into the year, he comes home distraught. He hated the school. He was never going back, and he was crying. I asked him what happened, and he said his newest best friend had told him that day, “I can’t play with you anymore because you’re a n*****.” His friend’s mom had come to pick him up and saw that their son’s best friend was an African-American kid. If you can imagine, those parents took that kid home that evening and taught him how to be racist. It just needs to stop. If you’re so embroiled in so much hatred, how can you make positive gains in your life?

What do you think should be done with Confederate monuments?

Those monuments were put up during the time of Jim Crow. They wanted to intimidate and keep African-Americans in their place with the threat of white supremacy. Why would you display hatred? They were fighting for slavery, so unless you are supporting the values of slavery and what it stood for, why should they be on public display? They should be in a museum, but they don’t need to be on public display.

So has the governor’s response not been satisfactory?

He hasn’t come right out and ordered them down, has he? Then, no. That’s what he needs to say. He’s toeing the line. That doesn’t help the climate in this country. It adds more fuel to the fire.

Your party is numerically on the losing side, except in rare instances involving a swing vote from across the aisle. Does that impact your outlook for what you can accomplish?

I hope we can work across the aisle and in a bipartisan manner. Some things are just humane or morally correct. We should all want children to have the best education possible. We should all want them to have a high-quality teacher, and we’re willing to pay them. It’s almost like we’re going back to apartheid schools. We’re becoming more segregated than we were, and that’s just not good for kids. It would be nice if we could get rid of the label. We’re all people, and we’re all here to improve the quality of life of all citizens. Most kids don’t think of themselves as political. Why should we have these political issues impact their lives?

Judge fines ex-lawmaker for campaign finance violations

An administrative law judge ruled on Feb. 28 that former Rep. Jesus Rubalcava violated several state statutes and the Clean Elections Commission reporting requirements during his 2016 campaign.

Following a half-day trial in early February, Judge Diane Mihalsky found that Rubalcava was unable to produce documentation to justify his expenses and support his appeal of a nearly $52,400 fine that the Clean Elections Commission imposed in November for violations of Clean Elections rules for publicly funded candidates during his campaign.

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava
Jesus Rubalcava

The only evidence he produced, according to the judge’s orders, was a VistaPrint receipt in the amount of $28.80.

Mihalsky noted that “although the commission could have imposed a greater civil penalty,” she recommended that the penalty be reduced by $86.40, three times the $28.80 receipt he produced, from $52,377 to about $52,291.

Rubalcava has 30 days to pay the fine.

In May 2017, a Clean Elections audit found that Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess.

He combined his personal funds with campaign funds, and he used the campaign dollars to cover personal expenses, like flights out of state and hotels in Washington D.C., Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.

He resigned from his seat in Legislative District 4 in July during the Clean Elections investigation, which threatened to force him from office. The commission ordered Rubalcava to repay more than $17,000 in Clean Elections money that it found he had inappropriately spent, and later imposed a $52,377 fine for violations of Clean Elections rules, which Rubalcava appealed with the Office of Administrative Hearings.

Precinct committeemen: Flexing clout when lawmakers leave

Bill Bercu, chairman of Legislative District 21 Democrats, calls a meeting of precinct committeemen to order on May 23. (Photo by Hank Stephenson/Arizona Capitol Times)
Bill Bercu, chairman of Legislative District 21 Democrats, calls a meeting of precinct committeemen to order on May 23. (Photo by Hank Stephenson/Arizona Capitol Times)

Precinct committeemen, the party faithful who show up at legislative district meetings and encourage people to vote, occasionally get a chance to have an even more influential role in state politics.

Precinct committeemen help select a replacement when a member of the Arizona Legislature resigns or otherwise leaves office before their term ends.

Here’s how it works: PCs in the vacated district vote for three candidates to replace the member who left office. Then, the board of supervisors representing the county where the lawmaker who left office resides choose one person from the slate to fill out the term.

It’s not all that infrequent in Arizona politics. In the past three years, five seats in the Legislature have been vacated.

Chad Heywood, the former chair of the Arizona Republican Party, said many prominent politicos have come to the Legislature via the appointment process, which speaks to the strength PCs can have.

“It’s one of those things where, the precinct committeemen are seen as not very powerful, until they are,” he said.

The Arizona Republican Party counts nearly 4,000 PCs in its ranks statewide. The Arizona Democratic Party has nearly 2,600.

Those in the “political class” who ignore or discount PCs do so to their own detriment, Heywood said. And PCs know when a candidate is only courting them briefly to further a short-term goal. Successful candidates understand the grassroots power of PCs and work to cultivate it, he said.

“It’s kind of like getting in on the ground floor of politics,” he said.

Ed Ableser
Ed Ableser

This year, former Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Peoria, left the Legislature to work for the Trump administration. Rep. Ben Toma took his place after LD22 Republicans sent his and two other names to the Board of Supervisors.

Last year, Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, resigned to run for Congress. Rep. Matt Kopec filled out her term, though he didn’t win the seat in 2016.

In late 2015, Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, resigned to move to another state, setting off a domino effect wherein former Rep. Andrew Sherwood was appointed to the Senate, leaving a vacancy in the House.

PCs in Legislative District 26, which covers east Tempe and west Mesa, nominated three women to fill the role. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors picked Rep. Celeste Plumlee, who lost in the 2016 election..

Jesus Rubalcava
Jesus Rubalcava

Another resignation, this one by Democratic Rep. Jesus Rubalcava of Gila Bend, happened recently, though the ordinary process for appointment won’t be followed. Because the Maricopa County portion of the district does not have the 30 precinct committeemen required to nominate candidates to replace Rubalcava, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will have to appoint a committee to choose three candidates.

The appointment process respects the role PCs play as active members of their parties who understand the needs and goals of the district, said Jen Darland, a former Democratic PC who was involved in the replacement process for Legislative District 9 in 2016.

Voters already weighed in on a candidate they liked via an election, so it’s important for the PCs to find three people who know how to represent those voters’ interests, she said.

“It’s not necessarily about carrying the party mantra, although that is important. It’s about understanding the pulse of the voters,” Darland said.

The PCs in LD9 forwarded to the Pima County Board of Supervisors three great options to fill Steele’s seat, she said. And that’s really the power the PCs hold in this process – giving three options to the people with the actual power to appoint, the board of supervisors, so that the district basically can’t go wrong, she said.

“I don’t think that there was a PC in the room that was getting all heady about it, but I think that we understood the importance,” Darland said.

Rae Chornenky chairs the Legislative District 22 Republicans, which selected replacements for Lovas earlier this year. She said the process gave PCs an opportunity to talk directly to those who wanted the nomination, something many voters may not get a chance to do.

The nomination process required some quick movements on Chornenky’s part. She had to find a meeting space for more than 100 people within five days and notify all the PCs they needed to attend.

But overall, the experience was positive, informative and important, she said.

“I think the PCs in our legislative district benefitted greatly from the process. They were very interested. The interest and the participation was very high. They came with great questions,” she said.

The LD22 Republican PCs took their role in the process seriously, which didn’t surprise Chornenky because the district is always active in other efforts, like getting out the vote come election time.

“They’re the ones who are ready to step up and make decisions about who should be in these offices, who should fill these vacancies. … They have a vested interest as well as a very important knowledge of issues in their legislative district as well as who is working to further the cause of Arizonans in general,” she said.

Rubalcava hit with $17K bill for campaign spending violations

Former Democratic Rep. Jesus Rubalcava was ordered today to repay more than $17,000 to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

The commission unanimously approved the order proposed by Executive Director Tom Collins on Tuesday. Rubalcava will now have 30 days to repay $17,459 from his own personal funds.

In May, a Clean Elections audit found that Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess. He combined his personal funds with campaign funds, and he used the campaign dollars to cover personal expenses, like flights out of state and hotels in Washington D.C., Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.

Jesus Rubalcava
Jesus Rubalcava

Rubalcava has not provided documentation to prove his questionable expenditures were actually appropriate.

Those violations alone – and they were joined by others – would have been reason enough for his removal from office under the Clean Elections Act. He resigned in July.

Rubalcava told the commission Tuesday he believes the judgement is “really unfair” and, if given the time to travel across his large district, he could track down business owners he worked with to show his expenditures were legitimate.

“I’m a school teacher, and it’s really difficult for me,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting, adding he would only have time to hunt down the requested documentation on weekends.

Commissioner Mark Kimble was not sympathetic to his argument and pointed out Rubalcava was first served an order of compliance on June 23. Two months later, he said Rubalcava has done nothing to provide the documents he now says he could produce with more time.

Additionally, Kimble said Rubalcava has not contacted the commission for guidance on next steps, which the former representative said were not clear even today.

Commissioner Galen Paton voted in favor of the order but said he wanted Rubalcava to be able to prove he spent money appropriately as he claims he can; for instance, Rubalcava claimed he could produce receipts for about $6,000 paid to a printer for campaign materials.

If such appropriate transactions did occur, Paton said, then surely business owners would be able to provide a record from their own accounting.

Tom Collins said the total owed to the commission could be revised if Rubalcava is now able to provide receipts, but he noted extensions have already been granted and yet no documentation received.

Rubalcava said he was taking receipts to work with him to prepare for the auditing firms; he is a special education teacher in the Buckeye Elementary School District. He said his classroom was moved two times over the Christmas holiday, and some of his receipts were lost in the process.

Though he raised that explanation in a letter sent to the commission in April, Collins said this was the first time Rubalcava had raised the issues he brought up Tuesday.

In fact, Rubalcava previously accepted the auditors’ findings, pointing to his position as a first-time candidate to explain what led to his financial troubles.

“Please acknowledge that I am not by any means challenging the results of the review, nor am I denying any wrong doing,” he wrote in a letter to the commission in April. “More so, this is acknowledgement that my campaign finances were not effectively run and that my lesson has been learned.”

Rubalcava resigns from House, cites family

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava
Rep. Jesus Rubalcava (D-Gila Bend)

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, D-Gila Bend, has resigned in the shadow of an ongoing Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission investigation.

“I have struggled with this decision, and ultimately it is for the best that I depart to focus on my family and profession,” Rubalcava wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues Wednesday. “I leave knowing that this legislative body and government will be here regardless but my children will only get to be children once.”

In May, a Clean Elections audit found that Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess. He had combined his personal funds with campaign funds, and he used the campaign dollars to cover personal expenses, like flights out of state and hotels in Washington D.C., Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.

Those two violations alone – and they were joined by others – would have been reason enough for his removal from office under the Clean Elections Act. The investigation has not yet been concluded.

Rubalcava did not deny the allegations against him but chalked them up to his being a first-time candidate not familiar with the rules.

He did not mention the audit in his resignation email.

Still, House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, assumed he would not have resigned absent the resulting investigation.

“We’re sorry that this has happened,” Rios said. “We do support and respect his decision. It’s never easy. Folks work very hard to get into office, and so, I know it had to have been a very difficult decision for him to make. But at the end of the day, I think he made the right decision in terms of choosing to focus on his family and put his energies elsewhere.”

As for the Clean Elections inquiry, that’s something that will follow him out of office.

House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios
House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

“That will be something that he will need to continue to address even once he’s exited the Legislature,” Rios said. “That remains a process in motion.”

She was confident his constituents of Legislative District 4 would be taken care of in the meantime.

Rios anticipated the usual process of replacing Rubalcava would take its course, but that may not be so certain.

Because the Maricopa County portion of the district does not have the 30 precinct committeemen required to nominate candidates to replace Rubalcava, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will have to appoint a committee to choose three candidates, according to Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Enrique Gutierrez.

Rubalcava lives in Gila Bend. His district stretches from southern Yuma to the Tucson area, and juts into the West Valley in Maricopa County.

His stint at the House was punctuated by controversy even beyond the Clean Elections audit.

He drew ire in April after writing on social media that he wanted to punch Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko in the throat following her successful passage of legislation expanding Arizona’s school voucher program.

Rubalcava later defended the comment as merely rhetorical anger in response to the Peoria senator “prancing around” the House after the victory.

He initially declined to apologize, only going so far as to remove the post containing the comment from Facebook. A week later, though, he folded to the firestorm of criticism that erupted in its wake.

Jeremy Duda contributed to this report.