PHOENIX — Arizona Rep. David Stringer resigned Wednesday amid an ethics investigation of 1983 sex charges and his comments on race and immigration.
The Prescott Republican lawmaker stepped down as he faced a 5 p.m. deadline to hand over documents demanded by the House Ethics Committee. Earlier in the day he made an emergency request for a judge to block the Legislature from expelling him, then withdrew it as a hearing was scheduled to begin.
“I’m grateful that the House will not be forced to take action against one of our members, and we can begin to put this matter behind us,” Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers said in a statement announcing Stringer’s resignation.
Stringer did not respond to a request for comment. His resignation letter said only: “This is to confirm my resignation as State Representative for Legislative District 1, effective 4 p.m. this date, March 27, 2019.”
Stringer is the subject of two ethics complaints following newspaper reports that he was charged with sex crimes more than three decades ago. The charges were later expunged.
“His actions were unbecoming of a state legislator, and racism should have no place in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat who filed one of the two complaints, said in a statement. “The evidence that he was trying to withhold from the Ethics Committee must be damning since he chose to quit rather than comply with a subpoena.”
The State Bar of Arizona earlier this month ended an investigation into whether Stringer disclosed the expunged conviction when he applied for an Arizona law license in 2004, which he was required to do. A bar investigator said Stringer’s application materials no longer existed, and that the District of Columbia did not discipline Stringer following the 1983 charges.
Stringer’s lawyer has said the charges never resulted in a conviction.
Stringer was also being investigated over comments that were widely denounced as racist. Last summer, video circulated on social media of him saying “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” when discussing integration in schools. Despite a backlash, he was re-elected in November.
A few weeks after the election, the New Times reported that Stringer told Arizona State University students that African Americans “don’t blend in.” He also said Somali immigrants don’t look like “every other kid” as previous European immigrants do.
He apologized for his language in a speech on the House floor in January.
Ethics Committee Chairman TJ Shope, a Republican, has not said what was subpoenaed, but Stringer faced a potential expulsion vote for his refusal to turn over documents.
Stringer’s lawyer, Carmen Chenal, said in the withdrawn court filings that the panel sought records of a 1984 disciplinary proceeding for the District of Columbia bar and records of his applications for a teaching credential and a master’s degree, among other things.
Chenal wrote the DC bar did not discipline Stringer and considers the record confidential. She has said the document includes material that could damage Stringer if taken out of context.
His resignation temporarily ends the Republican governing majority in the House and will likely delay some of the GOP’s top priorities just as the legislative session heats up. Without Stringer, the House is divided 30-29 between Republicans and Democrats. Legislation requires 31 votes to pass.
By law, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors must replace him with a Republican chosen by the county’s GOP precinct leaders.
Stringer is the second Arizona lawmaker to lose his seat over ethics questions in just over a year. Lawmakers voted last February to expel Republican Rep. Don Shooter for a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct.