PHOENIX — The moves toward impeachment of President Trump are having political ripples in Arizona.
Two recall drives have been launched against members of the state’s congressional delegation.
One, by Phoenix resident Peter McMillan, seeks a special election to oust Democrat Greg Stanton. McMillan specifically cites Stanton’s support for impeachment.
The other, by Leonard Clark, targets Republican Debbie Lesko. In his formal filing, Clark cites Lesko’s decision to vote against a rebuke of the president for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria “and her betrayal of the Kurdish people.”
But Clark said he also thinks she should be recalled because of her role in crashing the closed-door bipartisan impeachment hearings.
Both efforts face long odds — if there are, in fact, any odds at all — given the number of signatures necessary to force an election and the fact that both sponsors concede they have no major source of funding.
It will take 65,311 valid signatures submitted by Feb. 29 to set an election to recall Stanton, with the number based on a percentage of the turnout in the 2018 election; Clark needs 76,104 names on petitions by Feb. 21 to seek recall of Lesko.
Any election would not take place until next summer, likely long after conclusion of any House vote to impeach the president and send the matter to the Senate for a trial. But both McMillan and Clark said that does not deter them from their efforts.
“I’m doing it in the interest of due process,” McMillan said.
“Somebody has to stand up here in Arizona,” said Clark.
And that presumes there would be an election even if they reach their signature goals.
There is no provision in federal law for recall of members of Congress. And federal courts generally have barred states from imposing such requirements.
That means incumbents need not agree to honor the results of a recall.
There is a provision in Arizona law allowing congressional candidates to sign statements they will voluntarily abide by the results of any recall. But neither Stanton nor Lesko signed such a statement when elected.
In fact, Sophia Solis, spokeswoman for Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said there is no evidence that any of the candidates elected in 2018 submitted such a statement.
Solis said her office will accept a properly filed recall petition that has the required number of signatures. That, she said, could lead to a court challenge.
But, absent a ruling by a judge, Solis said her department is in uncharted waters.
“The law is unclear as to whether, in the absence of a challenge, a recall election should be held with the results merely being symbolic,” she said. “We are not aware of any authority on this point.”
Lesko, in a prepared statement, showed no concern about the recall effort.
“Voters recently elected me four times,” she said, referring to her victories in a special primary and general elections in spring of 2018 to replace Trent Franks who had quit, and then again later in the year to win her own two-year term. “I have been working very hard to help my constituents.”
Her district covers the area from Litchfield Park through Sun City and Peoria up to New River.
There was no immediate response from Stanton, whose district runs from central Phoenix through south Scottsdale and Tempe into parts of Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert.
The recall against Stanton was filed slightly more than a month after the congressman, who earlier had supported an inquiry, announced he now is in favor of proceeding with a full-blown impeachment of the president.
“The mountain of credible evidence that the president has engaged in impeachable conduct continues to grow, including his own alarming admissions over the past several days,” Stanton said in a Sept. 24 statement, saying that members of Congress have sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
“The House now has a duty to move forward with impeachment of the president,” he said. “Failure to act would create a dangerous precedent that is too high a cost for our nation to bear.”
McMillan said his views about what is going on in Washington have been affected by the writings of Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law School professor, who has opined that the House needs evidence of “high crimes or misdemeanors” to proceed with impeachment. Dershowitz has questioned whether anything Trump is accused of fits that definition.
“It’s placing the nation in a situation where we could be facing a constitutional crisis,” McMillan said. He said the recall petition will help educate the public about those issues.
“We as registered voters need to have an open and honest debate as to what we want our elected representatives to do in our name, or not to do in our name,” he said.
McMillan, who said he is a political independent, voted for neither Stanton nor his opponent Republican Steve Ferrara last year, saying he just moved into Arizona in 2017 and did not go to the polls in 2018.
Clark finds himself in the same position on the 2018 contest between Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. While he is a long-time Arizona resident, Clark said he was living in Prescott at the time; he said he has since moved into Lesko’s district.