Massive Upheaval in the Arizona Legislature: A String of Resignations Will Transform Dem Caucus

In a time of the year when the headlines coming out of the legislature typically revolve around bills being proposed, this year’s headlines (in the less-read political publications at least) are often around who is leaving the legislature. Between running for higher office, being kicked out, and simply being done with the legislature, there has been (and will be) quite a few openings on the Democratic side of the AZ House, enough so that it may partially reshape the dynamics of the caucus.

First, we will cover legislative district 8, which covers southern Scottsdale along with parts of Tempe, Mesa and Phoenix. Chronically absent Democratic legislator/keyboard warrior Athena Salman decided that she would rather make more money elsewhere, taking an executive director gig with an abortion rights organization. In this case, the Board of Supervisors have already made their choice.

They had three candidates to choose from: former party apparatchik Deborah Nardozzi, reportedly anti-Semitic rapper Jacob Raiford (paging Bruce Franks Jr.), and former “millennial life coach” and frequent candidate Jevin Hodge. Hodge has skillfully avoided offending anyone by being as charismatically vague and milquetoast as humanly possible, which made him the perfect choice. Congrats to Hodge, his relentless milquetoasticity finally earned him a seat at the table.

In district 5, one that covers much of central Phoenix, both legislators are stepping down. Dr. Amish Shah is stepping down in order to attempt to take on David Schweikert in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, and Jennifer Longdon is resigning to work with a healthcare non-profit. The Board of Supervisors has yet to make their decisions on this, and as of the time of writing the District 5 Democrats have yet to submit three names to choose from (made slightly more complicated with two seats to fill).

Sarah Ligouri placed in third during the last primary and is widely expected to be one of the options and a safe choice for the Board. Assuming that’s the case, that leaves a free for all for the 2nd position. 3rd and 4th place finishers Brianna Westbrook and Aaron Marquez are expected to vie for it; common wisdom would imply that the Republican-led Board would prefer more moderate former veteran Marquez over the progressive-borderline-communist trans-activist and bullhorn-enthusiast Westbrook…unless they wanted to make the Democrats look badly in the legislature, that is.

And lastly that brings us to Leezah Sun in district 22. Ohhhh, Leezah…it’s not often that we can call a politician a psychopath without one iota of hyperbole, but the shoe absolutely seems to fit in her case. The official reports only scratch the surface; the personal anecdotes range from bizarre to truly evil. The Dems took care of business and gave her the boot, thus leading to another opening. This one is a relatively new development, so it’s tough to find solid speculation as to who may jump in, but there’s some speculation that the sole Dem on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Steve Gallardo, may be interested.

These are all strong Democratic footholds, so it will not change the balance of power at the Capitol. However it will certainly change the dynamics of the Democratic caucus in a big way, and help foster the next iteration of leadership on that side of the aisle.