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Democratic senator: Indicted 'fake electors' shouldn't lead Senate committees

A Democratic lawmaker is calling on the Republican Senate president to remove Sens. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) and Jake Hoffman (R-Gilbert) from committee leadership positions after they were indicted by a state grand jury.

Hoffman and Kern were indicted as part of the slate of so-called fake electors who allegedly sought to undermine President Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Donald Trump in Arizona in 2020.

Kern chairs the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. Hoffman leads the Government Committee and a special committee to vet Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ nominees to run state agencies, which Democrats alleged Hoffman weaponized for political purposes. 

Sen. Brian Fernandez (D-Yuma) wrote a letter to Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) asking him to remove them from those positions, citing efforts by both to investigate or impeach Attorney General Kris Mayes, who is investigating the fake electors.

“This is not punishment,” Fernandez said. “This is just a safety mechanism to ensure that we have fair committee representation.”   

Shortly after Mayes announced the indictment of two Cochise County supervisors for delaying the certification of the 2022 election results, Hoffman took to social media and threatened to impeach Mayes.

He wrote that his Arizona Freedom Caucus “will be looking at every possible option to make weaponizing our state’s government and abusing Executive power as painful as humanly possible. This includes legal action … and everything else up to and including impeachment.”

“I think that he was aware that the grand jury had been convened and that they were looking into him, and he was trying to get ahead of that to discredit her,” Fernandez said.

Kern, a member of the Freedom Caucus, later used the Judiciary Committee he chairs to open an investigation into Mayes in February over allegations she engaged in “a flood of questionable activity,” including the decision to prosecute the Cochise County supervisors.

Petersen denied Fernandez’s request, saying he believes in due process. He says he won’t take action without a court conviction or recommendation from the Senate’s ethics committee.

“Not one of our members has been convicted of any crimes, nor any ethics violations, prompting the necessity of any punishment,” Petersen said in a statement.

Fernandez said he also believes in a due process but called the removals “a safety mechanism” to protect the integrity of those legislative committees.

“I think it’s important for us to take a step back and let the process happen,” Fernandez said. “They’ll still be senators, and if they’re proven innocent, I think that they should be reinstated.”  

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.