State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, and Attorney General Terry Goddard said allegations from the Arizona Republican Party that they broke the state’s “resign to run” law are “spurious” and illegitimate.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen claimed Sinema and Goddard both broke a voter-approved state law that prohibits elected officials from announcing their candidacy for one office while serving in another.
Pullen is demanding Goddard appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the case. According to the Republican allegations, Goddard violated the law when he told a crowd of supporters he planned to run for governor in July, while Sinema sent a Facebook message to her online supporters saying she planned to run for the Arizona Senate in 2010.
“Those are pretty clear examples of going across the line when it comes to this particular law,” said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican party.
The law, approved by voters in 1980, prohibits an incumbent politician from filing a nomination to another office or making a “formal declaration of candidacy.”
Sinema and Goddard, who are both attorneys, said their statements do not fit the definition of a formal declaration and are not in violation of the law.
Anne Hilby, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Goddard’s statements were perfectly legal because the law only applies to formal announcements.
“The law discusses a formal declaration of candidacy,” Hilby said. “[Goddard] feels everything he has said and done are well within the law.”
Paul Bender, a professor of Arizona Constitutional Law at ASU, said a “formal declaration of candidacy” would include announcements of campaign fundraising and the hiring of a campaign staff. Bender said neither Goddard’s nor Sinema’s announcements fit those criteria.
“The way the law has been interpreted, it requires a formal declaration of candidacy,” Bender said. “An exploratory committee or a general statement of intention to run in the future is not a violation of the law.”
Sinema accused the Republican party of trying to shift public focus away from the state budget, an issue that has divided conservatives across the state.
“It’s a pathetic attempt at distraction,” Sinema said. “Both Mr. Goddard and myself are attorneys, both of us understand the law and there was no violation.”
Bender agreed that Pullen’s accusations amount to nothing more than a political game.
“He’s doing this to divert attention from other things or he’s doing it to be a nuisance to the Democrats,” Bender said.
Roberts said Sinema’s statement violates the spirit of the “resign to run” law, which is designed to ensure politicians are not using public time and money to campaign for another office.
“I can’t imagine there’s any better example of a public announcement,” Roberts said. “Five hundred people responded to it. I’m not sure how much more formal you would need to be.”
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