The state Republican chairman on Wednesday called for investigations of whether Attorney General Terry Goddard and a Democratic legislative leader are in violation of Arizona's right-to-run law by saying they intend to run for other offices.
The 1980 voter-approved law requires elected officials to step down if they formally declare candidacies for another elective office before their current term's final year.
Republican Chairman Randy Pullen said statements by Goddard and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix cross the line and warrant appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate.
Goddard told a Democratic audience in May that he intended to run for governor, while Sinema said on her Facebook page in December that she was running for state Senate in 2010.
Goddard, who is barred by term limits from running for re-election as attorney general, is regarded as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010. Meanwhile, the Democrat now holding the Senate seat in Sinema's legislative district in Phoenix also is barred from running for re-election.
Pullen said the statements by Goddard and Sinema "seem to be in direct violation of the law" and that there was "an egregious lack of follow through" by Goddard's office after accounts of the officeholders' statements began to circulate months ago.
Anne Hilby, a spokeswoman for Goddard's office, said Pullen was engaging in a "frivolous political stunt" but that the office will review Pullen's request, with an official other than Goddard making the final decision.
"The attorney general feels he was fully within the law," Hilby said.
Sinema said her Facebook statement was a "typographical error" that she later deleted. Contrasting it with her subsequent establishment of an official exploratory committee, the Facebook statement was not a formal declaration of candidacy, she said.
"I haven't done anything to trigger the legal requirement," said Sinema, the second-ranking House Democrat.
The state Democratic Party said Pullen's announcement was intended to divert attention from Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's handling of the state budget crisis.
Voters approved the resign-to-run law in 1980, with supporters arguing that the public is entitled to have its election officials serve without the distractions of midterm campaigning for other offices.
Two southern Arizona elected officials — Tucson City Council member Roy B. Laos and Pima County Supervisor Conrad Joyner — were forced to resign their offices in 1984 in the wake of unsuccessful midtern runs for Congress in 1982.
Several Arizona politicians have had brushes with the law since then.
In the runup to the 1998 elections, then-state Sen. John Kaites, R-Glendale, was able to keep his legislative seat despite raising more than $200,000 with an exploratory committee for attorney general. A special prosecutor hired by state and county prosecutors concluded that Kaites did not break the law.
More recently, nothing came of Democrats' complaints that then-Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson, was violating at least the spirit of the law through his fundraising before formally announcing his unsuccessful candidacy for a U.S. House seat in 2008.
A 1993 attorney general's opinion said forming an exploratory committee did not by itself trigger the resign-to-run requirement.