Arizona lawmaker faces ethics complaints after report of sex offenses

Jan 28, 2019, 6:03 PM | Updated: Jan 29, 2019, 6:37 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — In the wake of a recent report that he was charged with sex offenses in 1983, Rep. David Stringer is facing ethics complaints in the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Kelly Townsend filed a complaint Monday against her fellow Republican lawmaker, who already was on thin ice after making a series of comments last year that many considered to be racist.

On Monday, Democratic Rep. Reginald Bolding made a motion on the House floor to vote on expelling Stringer, but Republicans voted to pause the session before a vote could take place.

Bolding said Stringer’s failure to disclose the allegations “is unbecoming of a member of this institution.”

A day after his motion failed, Bolding submitted his own complaint and requested that the Ethics Committee immediately start investigating Stringer’s conduct.

Republican Rep. Warren Petersen said Monday that lawmakers shouldn’t rush to expel a colleague before learning his side of the story and that the House Ethics Committee should look into it first.

Stringer, a Republican from Prescott, first made headlines last June, after video of him saying “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” at the Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum were posted on social media.

“Sixty percent of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities,” Stringer said. “That complicates racial integration because there’s not enough white kids to go around.”

The comment sparked calls from Gov. Doug Ducey and former Arizona Republican Party chairman Jonathan Lines for Stringer to step down.

Stringer responded to the calls for resignation by calling the information “incomplete” and dismissing the claim that he was a white nationalist.

“I think that term white nationalist is used in many different contexts. I am not a white nationalist in the way that I understand that term,” he said during a press conference after the video surfaced.

But that was not the only racist comment that Stringer was accused of making publicly.

Shortly after he was re-elected to his seat, Stringer said African-Americans “don’t blend in” and “always look different” during a Nov. 19 lecture led by an Arizona State University professor.

In addition to saying non-white immigrants have a hard time assimilating, Stringer called the cost of educating children whose first language isn’t English “a burden on the taxpayers.”

That comment led to Stringer’s resignation as chair of the Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee.

The Prescott City Council also passed a nearly unanimous motion in December asking Stringer to resign, saying in a statement that he can “no longer effectively represent Prescott and Yavapai County.”

Stringer did not apologize for the remarks until last week, shortly before the Phoenix New Times reported that he was charged with sex offenses in 1983.

“Issues that relate to race and ethnicity are very sensitive in any setting,” Stringer told fellow legislators. “I believe, on reflection, I have a duty to apologize to you as my colleagues. I apologize to you. I apologize to the speaker. I apologize to our staff here at the House. And I apologize to the public.”

The Phoenix New Times reported the charges based on a copy of the case history the newspaper obtained from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in Maryland.

Stringer’s record was expunged, and a court official told the New Times the records should not have been released.

Stringer represents District 1, which covers most of Yavapai County. In the November general election, he finished second for one of two seats representing the district and received more than twice as many votes as the third-place finisher, Democrat Jan Manolis.

The Arizona House of Representatives expelled Don Shooter from the chamber last February after he was found to have broken sexual harassment policies. He was thought to be the first lawmaker voted out of his seat since the start of the #MeToo movement.

If Stringer resigns or is removed from office, Republicans would temporarily lose their majority in the 60-seat House, which is currently split 31-29 between Republicans and Democrats. Thirty-one votes are required to pass legislation.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors would choose a replacement from three candidates submitted by the Republican precinct committee members in the county. His replacement must be a Republican under state law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Arizona lawmaker faces ethics complaints after report of sex offenses