PHOENIX — House Republicans sidelined a bid Monday to oust Rep. David Stringer, preferring instead to give the Prescott Republican a chance to explain his 1980s arrest and comments about race and immigration to the House Ethics Committee.
In seeking his removal, Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, cited widely reported comments by Stringer last year, like African-Americans “don’t blend in” and there aren’t “enough white kids to go around” to allow for integrated classes.
“Those words are hurtful,” Bolding said.
But what appears to have spurred the talk of removing Stringer, versus just a censure, were criminal records from Maryland, unearthed by New Times, that showed he had been arrested there in the 1980s on multiple charges, including child pornography.
Stringer refused to discuss the issue with Capitol Media Services other than to say there was no criminal conviction, apparently due to a plea deal that allowed the arrests and guilty pleas to be expunged from the record after he completed probation.
“I don’t know what happened in 1983,” Bolding said. “I wasn’t there. But I can tell you allegations of a sexual nature that was not disclosed to this body, to our voters. That is not transparency. That is unbecoming of a member of this institution.”
But Bolding was outmaneuvered in his call for an immediate vote by House Majority Leader Warren Petersen who used a procedural maneuver to instead have the House recess.
The Gilbert Republican said he wanted the opportunity to discuss Bolding’s proposal and the allegations against Stringer with fellow members of the party, which controls the House 31 to 29 Democrats, before proceeding. But Petersen made it clear that a vote to expel is premature.
“We have a process, a process that I’m sure everybody in this room would like to be treated the same way with,” he said. And that, Petersen said, would be to allow the Ethics Committee to consider the complaint filed Monday against Stringer by Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa.
She acknowledged that voters in Stringer’s legislative district in the Prescott area did re-elect him last year after his first comments about race and immigration came out. But Townsend said the new disclosures, all after the election, require a full investigation to determine if his conduct merits expulsion.
Townsend said the Ethics Committee is empowered to investigate not just violations of any rules or laws but also “any conduct that disrupts the orderly business of this institution.” And that, she said, includes anything that “adversely reflects upon the House.”
“At this point, with the information that we have, we need to see exactly what happened,” she said.
“It is of such an egregious nature that it is something that I feel needs to be known, that we need to look at,” Townsend said, “Whether it was expunged or not, whether it was a plea deal or not, I think at this point ... that it is a cumulative thing we have in front of us that it rises to the level of the Ethics Committee where these type of things need to go.”
Petersen said he was not defending what Stringer has said publicly or what the court records appear to show.
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