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Ex-lawmaker ousted for sexual harassment can legally seek comeback in election

Ex-lawmaker ousted for sexual harassment can legally seek comeback in election

  • Updated

PHOENIX — Don Shooter, ousted from the Arizona House this year for sexual harassment, meets residency requirements to run for state Senate from the same district, a judge ruled Friday.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz acknowledged there are facts that could lead to the conclusion that Shooter’s real residence is a home in north-central Phoenix and that he does not live — as legally required — in the district in which he is running, which stretches from Yuma to the western suburbs of Phoenix.

The Phoenix house is owned by a trust run jointly by Shooter and his wife, Susan, and the home is listed on tax records as owner-occupied primary residence.

There’s also the fact that shortly after Shooter was expelled from the House earlier this year, he not only spent most of his time in Phoenix but had his mail forwarded to the Phoenix address and the electricity at his Yuma apartment was turned off.

And the judge did not believe Shooter’s explanation that it was someone else — his attorney suggested it might even have been a political foe — who changed his voter registration on April 30 from his Yuma address to the Phoenix address outside the district.

Mroz said under Arizona law, where a person registers to vote is “strong proof” of residence but is “not conclusive.”

And as far as the power being shut off, the judge accepted Shooter’s explanation that his wife, who pays the utility bills, probably made that decision on her own “to save money” after he was ousted from the Legislature. It has since been turned back on.

On the other side of the equation, Mroz said Shooter has maintained an apartment at the Yuma address for more than five years. “He considers the Yuma apartment to be his primary residence and has always intended to go back ... and remain a resident of Yuma County,” Mroz said.

The judge said there was evidence Shooter intended to remain in the Yuma apartment, ranging from that being the address on his driver’s license and his tax returns to the fact that he continues to pay rent and the furnishings remain. He also has changed his voter registration back to the Yuma address. She also said there were affidavits from people who visited him in Yuma as recently as a week ago.

Attorney Tim La Sota, who argued to have Shooter’s name stripped from the Aug. 28 Republican primary ballot, said he is likely to appeal. He disagreed with the judge’s conclusion.

“The residency requirements are apparently that one rent an apartment in a district and say that’s their home. They don’t even have to have power,” La Sota said sarcastically.

La Sota represents Brent Backus of Waddell, who also is running in the race. Incumbent Sine Kerr of Buckeye is also on the ballot. Whoever survives the GOP primary will face Michelle Harris, the lone Democrat in the race.

Shooter has a long political history in the district. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 before making a successful bid for the House in 2016. The House voted to oust him after concluding he was guilty of sexually harassing lawmakers, lobbyists and others.

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