PHOENIX, AZ — Republican lawmakers blocked an effort to expel Prescott state Representative David Stringer from the legislature Monday.
State Representative Reginald Bolding Jr. (D-Phoenix) authored the motion to remove his colleague, whom he had previously said had no business serving in the state legislature after Stringer made racist comments last fall.
"Allegations of a sexual nature that were not disclosed to this body, to our voters, that is not transparency," Bolding said, referring to revelations first reported Friday by the Phoenix New Times that Stringer had been charged with several sex offenses, including child pornography, in Maryland in 1983. "That is unbecoming of a member of this institution."
It appeared Bolding had enough votes, but Republican leaders countered with a motion calling for an ethics investigation.
In pushing to avoid an expulsion vote, Republican Rep. Warren Petersen said lawmakers shouldn't rush to expel a colleague before learning his side of the story, noting a complaint had been filed with the House Ethics Committee. "It's not that people aren't horrified, people haven't been shocked," Petersen said. "But we have a process."
That complaint was filed by Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Apache Junction), in response to the sex offense charges.
In her formal complaint to the House Ethics Committee, Townsend said the charges, if true, show Stringer "engaged in conduct that compromises the character of himself, members of the House, and indeed holds the entire legislature up to contempt and condemnation."
She requested the committee investigate and make recommendations, including whether Stringer should face discipline such as censure or expulsion. Read her full letter here.
Two of the five charges were later dropped, and the entire case was expunged after being ordered to seek treatment at a clinic for sexual disorders and spend five years on probation, according to the New Times.
Rep. Reginald Bolding just gave a passionate speech about voting to expel Rep. David Stringer this evening - citing Rep. Stringer’s “racial” comments in the past & recent New Times article, which reported that Stringer was charged with child pornography in 1983 in Maryland. pic.twitter.com/cOGk8x6D9d— Zach Crenshaw ABC15 (@ZachCrenshaw) January 28, 2019
Prominent Republicans including Gov. Doug Ducey called for Stringer to resign to resign last summer when video circulated on social media of him saying "there aren't enough white kids to go around" when discussing integration in schools. He refused and was re-elected in November.
A few weeks later, the New Times reported that Stringer told Arizona State University students that African Americans "don't blend in." He also said Somali immigrants don't look like "every other kid" as previous European immigrants do.
Bolding drew from the earlier controversies in calling for Stringer to be expelled, saying it's harmful for black children to hear an elected representative say they don't blend in.
If Stringer resigns or is removed from office, Republicans would temporarily lose their majority in the 60-seat House, which is currently split 31-29 between Republicans and Democrats. Thirty-one votes are required to pass legislation.
The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors would choose a replacement from three candidates submitted by the Republican precinct committee members in the county. His replacement must be a Republican under state law.