Following the resignation of Tucson Rep. Daniel Patterson, the search is on for a replacement to fill his empty seat in the Arizona State House. The problem? Arizona independents are decrying actions made by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, claiming independent citizens are being excluded from the process. The Arizona Independent Candidate Coalition is leading the call for the appointment of an independent representative to the seat.
The issue has stirred up drama in Arizona, where squabbling has occurred over the now former lawmaker's party registration. Arizona Capitol Times reports that Patterson had switched his Democratic registration to independent on April 2nd. At the time, Rep. Patterson announced the change on Twitter and said it was to better represent the constituents of Legislative District 29. However last Wednesday, just hours (or not) before his resignation, Patterson attempted to re-registered as a Democrat. He says he was urged by Democratic leadership and took to Twitter to explain:
Temp. back as D so LD29 appointment can be fair & respect 2010 voter choice. Not my call, but I'm OK w real Indy or D next Rep — Daniel R. Patterson (@RepPatterson) April 13, 2012
Despite the attempts to switch back to Democrat, Arizona's Secretary of State determined he had indeed quit an independent. Arizona law requires he be replaced by an nonpartisan.
It's an interesting dynamic in the state, as Independents in Arizona make up a third of the electorate or over 1.2 million people. According the registration numbers with the Arizona Secretary of State, their numbers are up over 20 percent since elections were held in 2008.
Spearheading the calls for an independent appointment to Legislative District 29 is the Arizona Independent Candidate Coalition, a nascent political committee aiming to ensure the rights of independent voters and candidates.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors have complied a citizens screening panel for the process of bringing forth a candidate for a vacancy. There are two Republicans, two Democrats and one independent on the five-person panel.
“We are deeply disappointed that out of 21,191 independents in Legislative District 29, the supervisors were unable to find five for the citizens screening panel," said former State Representative Ted Downing, an organizer of the AICC, "It’s not as if it’s an Easter egg hunt.”
The AICC is supporting independent candidates. Among their top choices is Albert Jordan, an independent ready to serve, according to a statement made by the organization.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will name the replacement next week, from a list of three names sent from the citizen panel.