Process to replace Stringer underway
New District 1 representative could be sworn in as early as April 3
Within hours of State Rep. David Stringer’s resignation this week, the wheels were already turning on the replacement process.
Stringer, a Republican state legislator from Prescott, resigned late Wednesday afternoon, March 27, in the midst of a House Ethics Committee probe into recent racially disparaging comments, as well as other charges.
By the next day, numerous former state and city officials already were in the running to fill the vacated Legislative District 1 (LD1) seat.
Among them: former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett; former State Sen. Steve Pierce; former State Rep. Lucy Mason; former Prescott City Councilman Chris Kuknyo; former State Rep. Ray Everett; Jeff Wasowicz, and Alex Harris.
If all goes as planned, one of the possible nominees could be sworn into office on Wednesday, April 3 — a week after Stringer’s resignation.
Before that happens, however, a series of state-mandated steps must be followed — starting with the choice of three top nominees by Yavapai County Republican Precinct Committeemen, and culminating with a final decision and swearing-in by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.
POSSIBLE APRIL 3 SWEARING-IN
Randy Garrison, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, said Thursday that county officials were notified of the coming replacement process by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs on Wednesday evening, soon after Stringer’s resignation.
Based on that, the Board of Supervisors has prepared to call a special meeting for 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 3, at 1015 Fair St., in Prescott, to make the final appointment and to swear in the new LD1 state representative, Garrison said.
By state law, the Board of Supervisors in the out-going representative’s county of residence makes the final replacement choice from a field of three nominees who are put forward by the outgoing official’s political party.
“This is the middle of the (legislative) session, and we want to get somebody in office as soon as possible,” Garrison said, noting that the special meeting would precede the board’s regular April 3 meeting – if the nominees are submitted in time by the Republican Precinct Committeemen.
Yavapai Republican Party Chair Donna Tanzi said Thursday that the party was working to fulfill its state-mandated responsibility to supply the nominees.
She sent out an email Thursday to precinct committeemen, notifying them of a meeting tentatively set for Sunday, March 28. (The location the precise time have yet to be determined).
The precinct committeemen total about 159 people, Tanzi said.
In the interest of time and preparation, Tanzi’s email included a list of names that tentatively will be nominated from the floor, including Bennett, Everett, Harris, Kuknyo, Mason, Pierce and Wasowicz.
“Others can be nominated from the floor,” the email added.
On Thursday afternoon, several of the possible nominees confirmed to the Daily Courier that they were willing to fill the seat, if chosen.
Pierce, who previously served in the State Senate for eight years, said, “I was asked if I would serve, and I said, ‘yes, I would for the remainder of the term.’”
Over his four two-year terms in the Senate, Pierce served as the chamber’s president, whip, and pro tem.
Kuknyo said he was asked to run by conservative Republicans who hope that a conservative would replace Stringer.
“It’s something I’m willing to do,” Kuknyo said Thursday afternoon. “I just want to continue to represent the conservative point of view that the voters elected in the last election. I don’t really care if it’s me, as long as it’s a conservative voice.”
Mason, who served eight years in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011, said she was interested in filling the vacancy, if chosen. “I’m always interested in serving,” she said.
Bennett, who served as a state senator from 1999 to 2007 before serving as Arizona Secretary of State from 2009 to 2015, said he had the state budget in mind when he announced during a Republican Precinct meeting Wednesday evening that he was interested in filling the vacancy.
“My focus is going to be the state budget,” Bennett said. “There are some very critical decisions that need to be made to get the state on a sound financial footing.”
‘AN UNFORTUNATE SAGA’
Stringer’s resignation came as the House Ethics Committee was looking into charges that he made racially charged comments, as well as a recently disclosed 1983 arrest on charges including child pornography.
Stringer could not be reached for comment Thursday.
While none of the prospective nominees would comment Thursday on Stringer or the circumstances leading up to his resignation, several other officials have commented on the legislator’s racially disparaging comments.
Prescott Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr, for instance, issued an official city statement Wednesday night, stating, “Representative Stringer made the right decision. Now our community has the opportunity to move forward.”
Mel Hannah, chairman of the Arizona Commission on African American Affairs, said he had questioned Stringer’s “ability to serve because of his racist statements.”
Hannah, who attended a January 2019 Prescott City Council meeting to commend the city for its December 2018 stand against Stringer’s comments, said Thursday, “We are certainly pleased to see his resignation.”
Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard, who voiced support in December for the City Council’s condemnation of Stringer, said Thursday afternoon, “It’s been quite a saga, an unfortunate saga.”
Howard added: “I’ll just say the things Mr. Stringer said that were controversial, the things he mentioned, and said to other people in the community over the years, they did not jive with our values of ‘Every Child, Every Day, in the Prescott Unified School District.”
To Howard, the beauty of public education is “the power of diversity that offers the ability for all of us to learn from each other, and to work together for the betterment of our society. That’s part of what we mean when we say, ‘Every child, every day.’”
Now that Stringer has resigned, Howard said it will be important to have someone selected “that is supporting public education.”
“I hope Mr. Stringer just disappears from our lives,” Howard said. “We can do better in Prescott, and we’re going to now.”
Courier reporter Nanci Hutson contributed to this story.