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Chandler area Republican officials vote to replace Liz Harris with Liz Harris

Chandler area Republican Party officials want Liz Harris restored to the legislative seat from which she was just ousted last week.

But whether that’s legally or politically possible remains unclear at best.

At a meeting late Monday, Harris was the top vote getter among the precinct committeemen meeting from the district that includes parts of Chandler and Gilbert to nominate people to fill the vacancy created after the House expelled her for violating an ethics rule against “disorderly behavior.” She got 107 votes of the 153 cast in person and by proxy by the PCs.

As required by law, the party workers submitted a total of three names to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors which is tentatively scheduled to meet this coming Monday to choose a replacement. Also tapped were Julie Willoughby — who lost to Harris in last year’s GOP primary by 270 votes — and Steve Steele.

Harris actively encouraged the party workers to support her.

“These people know me,” she told reporters before the meeting.

State law spells out that precinct committeemen from affected legislative district where there is a vacancy must nominate replacements. But aside from the requirement that the nominees be of the same party as the person who previously held the seat, there appears to be nothing specifically addressing whether the person who was serving before is eligible to fill the post created by her or his ouster.

Fellow Republican lawmaker Justin Heap initially had opined in a Twitter post that state law prohibits an expelled member from being reappointed to the same seat. But Heap, who is an attorney, backtracked somewhat.

“I still believe this statement is true,” he wrote.

“However, Arizona law does not expressly prohibit LD 13 PCs from nominating Liz Harris as a candidate to her prior seat,” Heap said. “After review with other attorneys the best we can say is this is a constitutional ‘gray area.’”

Even if it’s legal, the odds of the supervisors selecting Harris are slim at best.

Harris, after losing her legislative race in 2020, was a promoter of theories that the results were flawed. The Chandler real estate agent even conducted what she claimed was a door-to-door canvass of Maricopa County voters and claimed based on her sample that there were more than 173,000 “lost” votes and more than 96,000 “ghost” votes.

And even after winning her 2022 race she continued to claim flaws.

In fact, at one point, even before taking office in January, she threatened to withhold her votes for any legislation unless the state “immediately” holds another election. Harris subsequently backed off after legislative leaders said they have no authority to issue such an order.

Maricopa County supervisors have been on the receiving end of such criticism and have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. And a review they ordered of problems with printers and tallying machines at vote centers on Election Day concluded that the equipment failures were not the result of intentional action by anyone.

One remaining question is whether the five supervisors, who get to fill the vacancy, can reject the entire list and ask for three other nominees.

That does not appear to be an option. The statute says the board “shall appoint a person from the three nominees submitted.”

Monday’s meeting itself had a bit of drama.

A majority of the Republican PCs voted to oust the media from the meeting. But that was reversed after Jeff DeWit, the state party chairman, noted that the requirement for the meeting was spelled out in statute, making closure a potential violation of the state Open Meeting Law.

Harris was ousted after the House voted 46-13 to accept the findings of the House Ethics Committee that she knew that someone she had invited to testify at a joint hearing in February on election integrity was going to present not just false but libelous accusations against lawmakers, judges and even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, accusing them of being involved in a criminal scheme to rig elections and other crimes. Committee members also concluded that Harris was not being truthful with them about what she knew ahead of time about what Scottsdale insurance agent Jacqueline Breger was going to say.

In separate action Monday, Democrat PCs from LD 26 which encompasses portions of the near west side of Phoenix nominated State Reps. Cesar Aguilar and Flavio Bravo along with political newcomer Quantá Crews to replace state Sen. Raquel Terán. She resigned and is running for Congress.

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