Expelled Rep. Don Shooter Running For Office Again

May 31, 2018

Credit AP Photo/Bob Christie,File)

A former Arizona lawmaker who became the first kicked out of a state Legislature since the #MeToo movement began because of a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct is running for office again.

Don Shooter, a Republican expelled from the Arizona House in February, said he filed around 900 signatures Wednesday to seek the GOP nomination for a state Senate seat in the same southern Arizona district he used to serve.

He wouldn't comment on the circumstances surrounding his expulsion, which came as lawmakers of both parties faced a national reckoning over sexual misconduct that began last fall.

Politicians accused of impropriety have resigned, been stripped of leadership posts and faced other repercussions. A Democratic state representative in Colorado also was expelled this year.

Sitting in the lobby of the Arizona secretary of state's office waiting to file his signatures, Shooter said "Let's dance."

He said he wants to talk about policy issues, such as the water needs of the agricultural industry and public education. Arizona teachers launched an unprecedented statewide strike this year over a lack of education funding.

"That's the only thing I miss about being away from here, was the ability to solve problems," Shooter said.

Shooter was elected to the Senate in 2010 and moved to the House in 2017. The lawmaker was known as a politically incorrect jokester who threw booze-fueled parties in his office on the last day of legislative sessions.

A female lawmaker, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, accused him in November of propositioning her for sex and repeatedly commenting on her breasts. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard ordered an investigation after Shooter accused Ugenti-Rita of having an inappropriate relationship with a staffer, but she was cleared.

Other women soon came forward to accuse Shooter of inappropriate sexual comments or actions.

Shooter eventually apologized for what he called his "jarring, insensitive and demeaning" comments but argued that he never sought to touch anyone or have a sexual relationship with them.

An investigative report released prior to his expulsion found he engaged in "repeated pervasive conduct (that) created a hostile work environment for his colleagues and those with business before the Legislature."

Shooter filed a $1.3 million claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in April alleging that the governor's office targeted him because he tried to expose widespread fraud in the state procurement system. It also accused Mesnard of changing House rules on harassment to remove Shooter from his committee chairmanship and ultimately to force the expulsion vote.

To get on the November ballot, Shooter will have to win the GOP primary. Incumbent state Sen. Sine Kerr, a dairy farmer who was appointed to fill the seat, has filed signatures along with Brent Backus, a conservative who owns a consulting business.

Democrat Michelle Harris, who served in the Air Force for 21 years, also is running for the seat.