Arizona Senate Republicans oust Scott Bundgaard as leader

PHOENIX - An alleged domestic violence incident has cost the second-ranking Republican of the GOP-led Arizona Senate his leadership post.

Peoria Republican Scott Bundgaard's colleagues ousted him during a closed caucus Tuesday, the second such meeting in as many weeks concerning the Feb. 25 incident on a Phoenix freeway.

Republicans did not immediately pick a replacement.

Bundgaard had fought to keep his role or at least to step aside only temporarily, but he sounded ambivalent after being removed from his leadership post.

Bundgaard said he'll now have more time to focus on responding to the incident, which is the subject of a police investigation and a Senate ethics review, and it will help his colleagues if his situation is not a distraction for them, particularly when the Senate is poised to act on proposed state budget.

Bundgaard, 43, and Aubry Ballard, 34, have said they argued in Bundgaard's car on the night of the incident but their accounts as told in police reports differ on what produced cuts and bruises on both of them.

Several senators said after last weeks' caucus that they agreed to wait a week before deciding whether Bundgaard should remain majority leader.

Republican senators had postponed a decision on Bundgaard's status for a week after he told them during a March 8 closed-door caucus that information would come to light to show his innocence.

Bundgaard told his GOP colleagues during the first caucus that Ballard handled a gun -- he has since said it was his -- during the altercation.

Initial police reports on the incident did not mention a gun being found or discussed, but Bundgaard has said officers were aware of it and gave it back to him before releasing him that evening.

A spokesman for Ballard denied that she handled a gun during the incident.

Bundgaard has issued press statements and given some interviews since the event, all saying that he didn't do anything wrong during a struggle that occurred after Ballard posed a danger to herself and others following an argument between the couple.

The incident between Bundgaard and Ballard occurred on state Route 51 in north Phoenix as the couple drove home from a charity event.

A police report said an off-duty officer reported seeing a man pushing or pulling a woman to the ground next to a car and that the man had his hands on the woman.

Ballard was arrested on investigation of assault and jailed overnight. She was released the next day, and the charge was subsequently dropped.

Police said Bundgaard was handcuffed at the scene but released after he invoked a state constitutional immunity that generally protects legislators from arrest during legislative sessions. He has denied invoking the immunity.

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