By Terri Jo Neff
Efforts to fill the vacancy created by Tuesday’s resignation of Sen. Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete (D-LD30) in the face of child molestation charges will take a bit longer than expected, after it was discovered there are not enough Democrat LD30 precinct committeemen to make the nomination.
At least 30 elected precinct committeemen are required, but there is only 29, according to information obtained from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office. That means the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will have to appoint a citizen’s panel which will be tasked with nominating three Democrat candidates.
The board of supervisors will then vote to appoint one of the three candidates as LD30’s senator. The process could take two weeks or more if a rift occurs among within the party and interested candidates.
Navarrete announced his resignation five days after his Aug. 5 arrest on seven felonies involving sexual misconduct with minors. He had his initial court appearance the next day and was released from jail Aug. 7 to await trial after posting a $50,000 secured bond.
Numerous public officials called on Navarrete to resign as soon as word of his arrest became public, including Gov. Doug Ducey, Senate President Karen Fann, and Rep. Raquel Teran, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party.
The one-sentence resignation letter to Fann and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios was followed by a written statement in which Navarrete “adamantly” denied “all allegations that have been made.”
Navarrete’s resignation put the brakes on an effort by Sen, Kelly Townsend for an ethics investigation. Sen. Sine Kerr, chair of the Ethics Committee, previously confirmed receiving Townsend’s complaint about Navarrete, but on Tuesday she dismissed the complaint as moot.
Court records show two boys, ages 16 and 13, told detectives with the Phoenix Police Department of being sexually molested by Navarrete in the past. The older boy alleged multiple incidents of abuse over several years. Among the evidence described in a probable cause statement is a confrontation call between Navarrete and the younger boy during which the then-senator reportedly admitted to engaging in sexual misconduct.
Confrontation calls are utilized by investigators in hopes of getting an alleged perpetrator to provide a confession or other incriminating evidence.
Navarrete has been ordered to have no-contact with the two victims named in the charges. He is also required to comply with electronic monitoring. If convicted of all charges, Navarrete faces a mandatory prison sentence of nearly 50 years.