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Arizona House expels Don Shooter after sexual harassment report, letter

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 file photo, Arizona state Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, reads a statement regarding sexual harassment and other misconduct complaints made against him by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and others, on the House floor at the Capitol in Phoenix. An internal investigation released Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, found that Shooter violated the chamber's sexual harassment policies and has been permanently removed from all committee assignments. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — The Arizona House voted Thursday to expel state Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) from the chamber after he was found to have broken sexual harassment policies.

“I’ve said stupid things. I’ve done stupid things,” Shooter said before the expulsion vote. “Do what you need to do.”

The vote to expel Shooter was nearly unanimous. Of the three lawmakers who voted against the resolution, two said they would prefer the voters decide if Shooter should keep his job.

There was one other no vote: Shooter voted to keep himself in office.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he supported the House’s decision to remove Shooter.

“They did the right thing today,” he said in a statement. “This should send a strong message: Everyone should be treated with respect, and there is no room for this behavior anywhere.”

Shooter is thought to be the first lawmaker voted out of his seat since the start of the #MeToo movement. Other lawmakers, such as former Rep. Trent Franks, resigned amid allegations.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard had planned to ask for a censure vote — a formal condemnation of Shooter’s acts — but decided to move for expulsion after Shooter released a letter on Thursday. It intimated another unnamed official may also be guilty of the same type of behavior.

In the letter, Shooter wrote Mesnard had privately asked him to resign months ago and wanted the chamber to wait to decide on his fate so woman who allegedly accused the unnamed official of inappropriate behavior could be heard.

Her claims were not included in a report detailing Shooter’s sexual harassment history because she wanted to remain anonymous.

“I ask that the investigator not be restricted from describing and shining a light on this young woman’s agony,” Shooter wrote. “How dare this young woman be dismissed and hidden when she risked so much to come forward?”

In a statement, Mesnard said Shooter’s letter was nothing more than an attempt to use that woman as a pawn.

“He’s not standing up for the victim but rather is further victimizing the individual,” Mesnard said. “Rep. Shooter’s letter represents a clear act of retaliation and intimidation, and yet another violation of the House’s harassment policy.”

The head of the state Democratic Party called Wednesday for Shooter to step down.

“In the environment we are in now, elected officials need to be held to a much higher standard than they have been,” Herschel Fink, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos.

Shooter’s misconduct was first made public after state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who is also a Republican, accused him of behaving inappropriately toward her over a period of years. At least three other female lawmakers also claimed that he harassed them.

Ugenti-Rita said Wednesday she wanted Shooter ejected from the chamber and voted to remove him.

“I support expulsion, for me and for all of the other women who came forward,” she said.

Anthony Kern (R-Phoenix) said he wanted Shooter investigated for criminal wrongdoing after voting for Shooter’s expulsion.

Shooter’s behavior was detailed in a report released Tuesday. Investigators found he violated House policy numerous times when interacting with multiple women.

He was removed from all committees after the report was released. He had already been suspended from his role as chairman of the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful posts in the House outside of majority GOP leadership.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan said Thursday that Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Lines will now be required to notify the elected precinct committeemen in the Legislative District 13 about the decision within three days.

Those committeemen then must gather to nominate three people to fill Shooter’s vacancy within five days.

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