Arizona House, Senate resignations could signal start of exodus from Legislature

In this Feb. 18, 2021, photo, Arizona representatives gather at the Capitol in Phoenix.
Mary Jo Pitzl
Arizona Republic

State Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, announced Wednesday he is cutting his term short and will leave the Legislature at the end of this month.

The second-term lawmaker said in his resignation letter that it was a privilege to serve, but did not give a reason for his departure.

Roberts is the latest in a string of recent departure announcements, triggered by ambitions for other elected office, personal reasons or scandal.

Rep. Kirsten Engel

Earlier Wednesday, state Sen. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, announced her resignation as she pursues a run for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. The district lines likely will be reconfigured as new congressional boundaries are drawn, but Engel's intent is to seek the seat that will represent the greater Tucson area.

Earlier this week, state Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, said he would not seek a fourth term in the Senate. He will serve in the Legislature through 2022. Bowie called the decision to not seek re-election a difficult one, but said while he loved his job, he is seeking a better work-life balance. 

The announcements come a month after former state Sen. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, resigned after he was arrested on seven felony counts of child sex abuse. 

As in all mid-term resignations, the county board of supervisors in the lawmaker's home district is responsible for picking a replacement. The new lawmaker must be from the same party as the departing official. 

The departures could be just the start of a wave of potential resignations. 

Several lawmakers are seeking statewide office, but none has yet announced if they plan to return to the Capitol in January or will leave to free up time for campaigning.

Among them is state Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, who is pursuing a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Four lawmakers have announced their intentions to run for Secretary of State: Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale; representatives Shawnna Bolick, R-Glendale; Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley; and House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen.

Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, is running for state attorney general, and two Republicans, Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria and Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, are seeking the GOP nod for state treasurer.

In addition to Engel, Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson also is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat Kirkpatrick will vacate.

Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, is running for the GOP nomination for Congress in northern Arizona, hoping for a chance to unseat U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz.

Hernandez and Blackman have not announced whether they intend to return to the Legislature.

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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