ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona GOP nominates Liz Harris, 2 others to fill House seat she was expelled from

Apr 18, 2023, 5:43 AM | Updated: Apr 19, 2023, 8:53 am

PHOENIX — Arizona Republicans announced Monday that Liz Harris and two others are in the running to fill the House seat that Harris was expelled from last week.

The other nominees are Julie Willoughby and Steve Steele.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will decide who will fill the House of Representatives seat.

“The state party has no say in who those nominees are,” Arizona Republican Party Chair Jeff DeWit told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “Anyone who gets nominated has to be nominated by one of the elected precinct committeemen of LD 13. The votes are by the committeemen.”

Harris, who represented the southeast Valley’s Legislative District 13, was ousted for letting a witness make wide-ranging accusations of bribery during a February hearing about election reforms.

The resolution to expel Harris was approved by a 46-13 vote. It needed a minimum of 40 votes – two-thirds of the GOP-controlled House – to pass.

Eighteen Republicans, including Speaker Ben Toma and Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, joined 28 Democrats in voting to oust Harris. One Democrat did not vote.

By law, Harris must be replaced by a Republican.

During her Feb. 23 presentation at a hearing organized by Harris, Jaqueline Breger accused a swath of politicians from both parties, judges and public officials of taking bribes from a Mexican drug cartel.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton filed an ethics complaint against Harris on March 6, and the Ethics Committee held an evidentiary hearing on March 30.

The resolution to expel Harris cited the committee’s findings, which said the first-term lawmaker knew in advance Breger was going to make the criminal allegations and failed to provide the information for review beforehand, in violation of House regulations.

Breger, an insurance agent from Scottsdale, attributed her allegations to a report written by John Thaler, who she said was an attorney with a background in fraud investigations.

Thaler alleged, without reliable evidence, that two women working on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel used fraudulent mortgage documents to launder money to a wide range of officials, both Republicans and Democrats. Online sleuths discovered the women Thaler accused of facilitating the fraud were his ex-wife and her mother.

Thaler has a history of filing lawsuits accusing them of carrying out wide-ranging conspiracies. A federal judge last year dismissed one of his lawsuits, calling it “a delusional and fantastical narrative.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Heidi Hommel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona GOP nominates Liz Harris, 2 others to fill House seat she was expelled from