Feathered Bastard

Kyrsten Sinema's David Lujan Weasels In To Open LD 15 Seat

This morning, over the complaints of some Democrats and Latinos, former House Democratic Minority Leader David Lujan was appointed unanimously to fill the open state Senate seat in Legislative District 15 by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

The LD 15 spot opened up when Kyrsten Sinema stepped down to run for U.S. Congress in the newly created Ninth Congressional District. Sinema had backed Lujan's bid over the others who'd made the cut, former LD 15 House member Ken Clark, and Sharon Thomas.

Clark told me that Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox called him this morning to tell him she would be voting for Lujan. 

As the only Dem on the BOS, and since LD 15 is partially in her district, Wilcox had a more than average say over who would get in. 

According to Clark, Wilcox explained that she was siding with Lujan because he had scored the most votes of precinct committee persons at a meeting on Sunday. 

There, the PCs chose three nominees through a process of elimination described in Steve Muratore's Arizona Eagletarian blog.

"We knew going into it that it would be an uphill battle," Clark explained. "But we wanted to try anyway."

Lujan was the pick of the political establishment. Sinema spoke on his behalf at the LD 15 vote on Sunday, and she and other Democratic Party insiders treated Lujan's appointment as a done deal.

"It sucks to lose, but I feel really good right now," Clark told me, noting that he had fleshed out some serious support during the process.

He said he was not considering a run this year for the state Legislature, but that a future bid for political office, perhaps beyond 2012, was definitely on his radar.

Lujan had garnered opposition because back in 2010, he was AWOL on the House's crucial vote on the state's breathing-while-brown law, Senate Bill 1070, much loathed by Democrats. He told me that he had a pre-scheduled family event to be at, and so skipped the vote.

Later, with the TV cameras rolling on Horizon, he claimed that he'd been out of town. When I confronted him on the story, he said he had misspoken.

Many believed the real reason he walked on 1070 was because he was vying for the Dems' party nod for Arizona Attorney General and didn't want the vote to haunt him in a general election.

But Lujan lost the primary to Felecia Rotellini, in part because he'd angered so many Dems by his 1070 absence.

So why was Lujan allowed to weasel back in for a session-long stint as a Senate place-holder?

Well, Dems, sadly, are an all too forgiving bunch. A Republican who had bucked the party base would probably not find fellow Rs as willing to overlook such transgressions of party discipline.

There's another reason, of course. The Arizona Democratic Party continues to be manipulated by a coterie of shot-callers for whom personal ambition is paramount. 

Within the party, they usually get their way. And David Lujan is their pal, or at least of the same ilk. So Lujan slips in. Simple as that. 

It's an unfortunate situation, one ensuring that Sand Land Dems remain a weak and miserable lot. 

Sure, the Rs benefit from this state of affairs. But so do some Democrats. Lujan, for one.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons