After a state senator aired his frustrations with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, two legislative vacancies have been filled.
On Friday and Monday, respectively, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors filled a vacant seat in the Arizona House of Representatives for Legislative District 13 and a vacant seat in the Senate for Legislative District 26.
Julie Willoughby was appointed for Legislative District 13. The newest House Republican fell short of victory in the 2022 election but found her way into the chamber in 2023 thanks to the expulsion of former Representative Liz Harris.
In announcing the selection of Willoughby, Maricopa Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Jack Sellers issued the following statement: “I would like to thank the PC’s from District 13 for selecting three qualified candidates for our consideration. I interviewed all of them about important issues such as Prop 400, homelessness, water, and elections. We take this duty seriously and follow a process that includes background checks and interviews so residents can be confident in the person chosen to fill the vacant seat.”
House Speaker Ben Toma told AZ Free News, “We’re proud to welcome Representative Willoughby to the House and to be a part of our majority Republican Caucus. There is still a lot of important work for us to accomplish this session for the people of Arizona and we can’t wait to get it done.”
Representative Flavio Bravo was appointed for Legislative District 26, opening up another vacancy to be filled in the state house. Bravo was selected after the resignation of former Senator Raquel Terán.
Bravo’s appointment was also heralded by another Maricopa County Supervisor, Steve Gallardo, who stated: “I would like to thank the PC’s from District 26 for selecting three qualified candidates for our consideration. It was a difficult decision because I respect all three of these community leaders. Flavio Bravo knows this district well and will represent it vigorously in the Senate.”
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ appointments came after Arizona Senator J.D. Mesnard took to the floor of his chamber to address the Board’s ongoing consideration of two legislative vacancies.
Senator Mesnard’s frustrations boiled over on the Senate floor as he laid out his charge against the Supervisors’ alleged delay in filling the two vacancies for 19 (Senate) and 20 (House) days. He informed his colleagues “the length of these vacancies is the longest, while we’ve been in session, in a half a century – 56 years!” Mesnard also said that 8.76 days is the historical average to fill the vacancy.
The East Valley lawmaker indicated that due to this historic delay, changes in statute could be on the horizon to ensure a more expedient selection by a county board of supervisors during an ongoing legislative session.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
State Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (D-LD13) announced on Tuesday that she won’t be seeking re-election. This means the district may experience a fresh slate of leadership come November 2024.
Pawlik stated that she needed to go in a different direction with her political career. Pawlik has also worked as a Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) teacher.
“It’s time to take my leadership and service in a new direction and to open the door for new candidates to run in this district,” said Pawlik.
District 13 incorporates Chandler, Sun Lakes, and Gilbert. Pawlik was elected to the legislature in 2019, defeating the mother of State Sen. J.D. Mesnard (D-LD13) for the seat.
That same district recently experienced another, different loss with the expulsion of their other state representative, Liz Harris. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is looking for a replacement for Harris.
The seat will likely be one of the more competitive ones heading into the 2024 election, a significant turning point for a closely-divided legislature where Republicans hold a bare majority. Pawlik was the first Democrat elected to the district.
Less than 24 hours after Pawlik’s announcement, former Republican state representative Jeff Weninger filed a statement of interest for reclaiming the seat. Another listed as running for a District 17 seat is Julie Willoughby, another Republican who filed last month and ran last year.
Pawlik earned 35 percent of the vote (47,166 votes); Harris, 32 percent (43,829); and Willoughby 32 percent as well (43,559). Pawlik ran uncontested in the Democratic primary last year.
Prior to Pawlik, the district was held by former Republican legislator Joanne Osborne and current Republican State Rep. Tim Dunn (R-LD25).
During her time in the legislature, Pawlik has only had one bill codified: HB2639 last year, declaring May to be Asian American/Pacific Islander Month.
Pawlik co-sponsored 14 bills that were codified, mainly relating to mental health and racial equity efforts. The co-sponsored bills signed into law were: HB2570 in 2019, establishing a study committee on murdered indigenous women; HB2646 in 2019, allowing Arizona Commerce Authority to review Rural E-Connectivity Pilot Program applicants; HB2672 in 2019, cracking down on “party house” short-term rentals; SB1468 in 2019, requiring the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System Administration to make suicide awareness and prevention training available and requiring educators to include suicide awareness and prevention training; SB1446 in 2020, requiring student ID cards to include contact information for suicide prevention resources, crisis centers, or emotional support services; SB1445 in 2020, requiring instruction on suicide awareness and prevention to be included in school counselor and social worker training programs; HB2098 in 2021, establishing reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies receiving reports of missing, kidnapped, or runaway children; HB2241 in 2021, requiring information about the Holocaust and other genocides to be taught at least twice between grades 7 and 12; HB2705 in 2021, allowing students belonging to a Native American tribe to wear their traditional tribal regalia or objects of cultural significance at a graduation ceremony; HB2787 in 2021, modifying criteria for an agency determination of whether a person’s criminal record disqualifies a person for a license, permit, certificate, or other state recognition; SB1097 in 2021, allowing students absent for experiencing behavioral or mental health issues to have an excused absence; SB1376 in 2021, includes mental health instruction in the health education course of study and competency requirements adopted by the State Board of Education; HB2083 in 2022, requiring the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to cover the costs of up to 10 annual program hours of diabetes self-management training if prescribed by a primary care physician; and HB2309 in 2022, requiring a police officer to read juveniles their Miranda rights prior to questioning them in temporary custody.
The animosity and distrust between the Maricopa Board of Supervisors and the Republican-led Arizona Legislature continues to deepen with a new issue finding a wedge between the two sides.
On Wednesday, Arizona Senator J.D. Mesnard took to the floor of his chamber to address the Maricopa County Supervisors’ ongoing consideration of two legislative vacancies in both the House and the Senate.
One of the vacancies is due to an expulsion of a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives. The other for a resignation of a Democrat member of the State Senate.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is statutorily required by law to select the replacement for the vacancy from a pool of three same-party nominees chosen by their party. Republican precinct committeemen transmitted three names for the open House seat (Liz Harris, Julie Willoughby, and Steve Steele) as did the Democrats for the Senate seat (Representatives Cesar Aguilar and Flavio Bravio in addition to Quant’a Crews).
Mesnard’s frustrations boiled over on the Senate floor as he laid out his charge against the Supervisors’ alleged delay in filling the two vacancies for 19 (Senate) and 20 (House) days. He informed his colleagues “the length of these vacancies is the longest, while we’ve been in session, in a half a century – 56 years!” The East Valley lawmaker also said that 8.76 days is the historical average to fill the vacancy.
What seemed to bring Senator Mesnard to this point were some of the rumors he recounted hearing about for the reasons in the delay to fulfill the vacancies. According to the senator, “one of the rumors is there may be a belief that the county can reject all three of the nominees put forward.” The other rumor “is that (the supervisors) just want to sit on this for a while and hold out for some piece of legislation that they want to see passed” – in other words, “leverage” on the Arizona Legislature.
Senator Mesnard spoke on behalf of the 120 Republican precinct committeemen who rearranged their schedule back in April to nominate the three individuals to fill the open House seat. He bemoaned the fact that such a lengthy delay was not previously an issue, and he hinted that maybe his colleagues should take future action to change the statute to force the county board of supervisors to act with more urgency when filling vacancies during a legislative session. He stated that the “Board of Supervisors should have held a special meeting to hasten what should be an important priority for them.”
The members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors were definitely paying attention to Senator Mesnard’s words. Supervisor Steve Gallardo quickly responded on Twitter, writing, “Thanks for taking us all the way back to the 70s Senator. We didn’t receive nominees until the 4/18. Some didn’t respond right away to request for background info. Board is performing due diligence. As always, Arizona Senate Republicans are ignoring the facts.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.