Serving in the Arizona Legislature is not the most desirable job in the world, yet the state is fortunate to have had many qualified public servants. At the same time, a surprising number of ethics problems have arisen among the legislators over the years. The resignation last week of embattled Rep. David Stringer of Prescott followed some capable work by Pinal County Rep. T.J. Shope. The record of the two men is a strong example of the good and bad in Arizona government.
Stringer had been an embarrassment to House Republicans since last year when he made widely criticized remarks about race and immigration. After further comments about race, he was pressured to give up leadership positions in the House. Then came the bombshell report that he had been charged with sex crimes, including child pornography, more than three decades ago while living in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, Shope played a key role as chairman of the House Ethics Committee. An attorney for Stringer was seeking to have him removed from that role as part of that side’s legal strategy. The contention was that Shope had made comments about Stringer last year, but they were made before he was ethics chairman and they were what might have been expected from a legislator stating an opinion about Stringer’s past actions. Shope had said at the time that he did not believe Stringer should be in the Legislature, but he doubted that he would be removed.
To his credit, House Speaker Rusty Bowers stood behind Shope and said any claim he was biased was “completely without merit.” And that is obvious from the Coolidge legislator’s record in office.
Stringer played out his hand as the ethics panel pressed subpoenas for documents and was insisting that he be interviewed by committee investigators. Stringer then resigned Wednesday, meaning the panel will not release a formal report about him. It is, however, releasing some documents about the case.
The system worked, Stringer is gone, and T.J. Shope played an important part in the process.