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Yavapai County supervisors pick Steve Pierce to replace resigned lawmaker David Stringer

Posted at 4:28 AM, Apr 03, 2019

PHOENIX — Republican Steve Pierce has been sworn in to the Arizona House of Representatives filling the seat left vacant by David Stringer, who resigned amid an ethics probe.

Pierce took the oath of office Wednesday hours after he was selected by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.

Stringer stepped down a week ago when confronted with a Baltimore police report showing he was investigated for allegedly sexually abusing two teenage boys. He's denied the charges, noting he was never convicted through a deal with prosecutors.

Replacing Stringer will allow normal business to resume in the House, which has not voted on legislation in a week. The vacancy in Legislative District 1 had left the GOP with 30 of the 60 House seats, one vote short of the number required to pass legislation without support from Democrats.

Pierce, a former state Senate president, was picked by the supervisors in a 4-1 vote over former Secretary of State Ken Bennett and GOP organizer Steven Sensmeier.

Pierce has said he will finish Stringer's term but won't run for the seat in 2020. Also a rancher, he served in the Legislature for eight years and led the state Senate for the 2012 legislative session. He was among a group of Republican lawmakers who took heat from conservatives for working in 2013 with then-Gov. Jan Brewer to expand Medicaid under former President Barack Obama's health care law.

Stringer quit March 27 following national attention over a series of stories. Last June, his comments on race and immigration led the then-GOP chairman and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to demand his resignation. He refused and was re-elected in November. A few weeks later, he faced further scrutiny for more racist remarks to a Republican group at Arizona State University.

In January, the Phoenix New Times published the summary of a 1983 court case in Baltimore indicating Stringer was charged with sex crimes. The case was later expunged, and a Maryland judiciary official said the summary should not have been released. Stringer was the subject of ethics complaints filed by two House colleagues, one from each party, but aggressively fought to keep records in the probe secret until he abruptly quit.

Two days later, the House Ethics Committee released a copy of the 1983 police report obtained from a private investigator showing a teenage boy told detectives Stringer approached him and another boy in a park, took them to his apartment and paid them $10 apiece for engaging in sex acts. The boy said he met "Mr. Dave" at least 10 additional times and was asked to engage in sex acts. Stringer surrendered to police on sex crimes charges on Sept. 15, 1983, when he was 36 years old.

He wrote on Facebook early Saturday morning that the charges "had no basis in fact."