Rick Renzi has a multimillion-dollar decision to make.Depending on whether and when he resigns from the U.S. House of Representatives, he could force the state and seven counties to conduct two special elections before the regularly scheduled fall elections.
The special elections would come at a time when the state and counties alike are facing serious budget shortfalls and cutting programs and staff. The mostly rural 1st Congressional District takes in an area larger than the state of Illinois.
Neither Renzi nor his attorneys gave any indiction Friday that the third-term Republican plans to resign following his indictment on 27 counts of wire fraud, extortion, money laundering and other charges.
Renzi faces decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if he's found guilty. Theoretically, his resignation could be used as a bargaining chip during plea negotiations with prosecutors.
Renzi already has said he will not run for re-election in the fall, and Democrats and Republicans alike have been positioning themselves to campaign for the office. State law dictates that if a vacancy for a U.S. House seat occurs more than six months before a regularly scheduled election, the governor must call for both special primary and special general elections to determine a successor.
The operative date is May 4.
If Renzi leaves office on or before that date, Gov. Janet Napolitano would be required to call for a primary election within 75 to 105 days of the vacancy. She then would be required to order a general election within 35 to 45 days from the primary election.
The regular primary and general elections then would be conducted in the fall as regularly scheduled. If Renzi leaves office after May 4, the seat simply would remain vacant until the fall elections.
Renzi withdrew from his House committee assignments months ago when an FBI investigation into his affairs became public. Democrats who have announced they are running for the seat on Friday called for Renzi to resign. They include attorney Howard Shanker, former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and former TV reporter Mary Kim Titla.
Taxi driver and mental health advocate Jeffrey Brown also is running as an Democrat, while radio talk show host Sydney Hay is running as a Republican.