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Updated Jan 31, 2013 - 3:25 pm

House committee OKs ‘Resign to Run’ law changes

PHOENIX — A House Committee advanced a bill Thursday that would allow
elected officials to more easily launch campaigns for another office without
triggering Arizona’s “Resign to Run” law.

The current law requires officials not in the last year of their term to resign
their seat once they make a formal announcement that they’re running or they
file official paperwork with the Secretary of State. Republican Rep. John
Kavanagh said his proposed bill will end what he calls the “charade” of
politicians essentially lying to the public about only exploring a run for
another office when everyone knows they’re running.

Kavanagh’s bill would redefine official candidacy to only include the formal
paperwork filing.

“Rather than not let people be truthful, which goes to transparency, rather
than not let them tell people what they’re doing, which goes to First Amendment
free speech rights, I will simply say let’s stop the charade” and let people
say they’re running, he said.

Bad idea, said Rep. Martin Quezada, one of two Democrats on the House Judiciary
Committee who voted against the bill. Five Republicans voted in favor.

“I think the problem is this basically nullifies what’s in the constitution, a
constitutional restriction,” Quezada said. “I think the whole purpose of that
constitutional provision is to make sure that elected officials are doing the
job that their constituents elected them to do.”

The law Kavanagh is seeking to change was approved by voters in 1980.

Quezada said if the bill is passed it would also allow elected officials to
take advantage of the publicity and power the office holds at the expense of
other candidates.

The bill now goes to the House floor after a routine legal review by the Rules
Committee.

Supporters of the 1980 law argued at the time that the public is entitled to
have its election officials serve without the distractions of midterm
campaigning for other offices.

Two southern Arizona elected officials _ Tucson City Council member Roy B. Laos
and Pima County Supervisor Conrad Joyner _ were forced to leave their offices in
1984 in the wake of unsuccessful midterm runs for Congress in 1982.

In the run-up to the 1998 elections, then-state Sen. John Kaites, R-Glendale,
was able to keep his legislative seat despite raising more than $200,000 with an
exploratory committee for attorney general. A special prosecutor hired by state
and county prosecutors concluded that Kaites did not break the law.

More recently, nothing came of Democrats’ complaints that then-Senate President
Tim Bee, R-Tucson, was violating at least the spirit of the law through his
fundraising before formally announcing his unsuccessful candidacy for a U.S.
House seat in 2008. And in 2009, former state Attorney General Terry Goddard and
four state legislators were allowed to retain their seats after a Pima County
Attorney investigation found some of their actions were questionable but didn’t
clearly violate the law.

The Pima County opinion said the law isn’t clear when it says violations occur
when an officeholder “offers himself for nomination for election” or makes a
“formal public declaration of candidacy.”

Without clarifying legislation, prospective candidates risk “prematurely
forfeiting their offices,” the opinion said.

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