And so is at least one blogger, because there are some nuances to this that I don't understand as yet.
The short-term effect of Sen. Flake's passing, a vacancy in the Senate, seems to have a simple fix.
From ARS 41-1202 -
41-1202. Vacancy in legislature; precinct committeemen; appointment;
A. If a vacancy occurs in the legislature and the vacant seat was represented by a political party that is organized pursuant to title 16, chapter 5, article 2 and that has at least thirty elected committeemen who are from precincts that are in the legislative district and that are in the county in which the vacancy occurred, the following apply:
1. The secretary of state shall notify the state party chairman of the appropriate political party of the vacancy. Within three business days after notification of the vacancy by the secretary of state, the state party chairman of the appropriate political party or the chairman's designee shall give written notice of the meeting to fill the vacancy to all elected precinct committeemen of the appropriate political party from precincts that are in the legislative district and that are in the county in which the vacancy occurred.
2. Those elected precinct committeemen shall nominate, within twenty-one days after notification of the vacancy by the secretary of state if the legislature is not in regular session or within five days if the legislature is in regular session and by a majority vote, three qualified electors to fill the vacancy who meet the requirements for service in the legislature and who belong to the same political party and reside at the time of nomination in the same district and county as the person elected to or appointed to the office immediately before the vacancy.
While there might be some playing around with the "official" notifications that start the clock in this section, the bottom line is that since the lege is in regular session (unless Tim Bee is holding another D.C. fundraiser), the appropriate Rep PCs will be gathering within the next week to ten days to nominate candidates to fill the seat.
There's a bit more, but the important, and confusing to me anyway, part is the phrase "...from precincts that are in the legislative district and that are in the county in which the vacancy occurred."
So....does this fall to the Republican PCs in all of LD5, or just those that are in the part of LD5 that's in Navajo County, the home of Snowflake, Arizona? Anyone?
Section 4 of the above ARS section prescribes that "the board of supervisors of the county of residence of the person elected or appointed to the office immediately before the vacancy occurred" shall select a replacement from the three candidates offered by the PCs, which actually makes sense in a district like LD5, which has 110 precincts in parts of six counties (Apache, Coconino, Gila, Navajo, Graham, and Greenlee).
That particular clause is an easy way to prevent turf battles among county boards of supervisors.
The other aspect of this may not have such a simple resolution - this fall's election.
The Republican side is easy -
Sen. Flake was the only candidate from either party to turn in sigs for a run for the LD5 Senate seat, and the deadline for others to do so has passed (June 4th).
ARS 16-343 states that in the event of the death of a candidate, the district's PCs of the party of the candidate get together and nominate another candidate. That clearly covers the Republicans, but since no Democrat had stepped forward to run against Flake, this is still an uncontested seat.
In 2006, Sue Dolphin of LD4 ran as a write-in candidate during the primary, garnering enough votes to appear on the ballot for the general election as a candidate for state rep.
A Democrat in LD5 would need to receive 385 write-in votes during the primary to do the same thing this year in LD5, according to the AZ Secretary of State's signature requirements and ARS 16-645.
So the question is - Is there a Democrat who's willing to step up, and are the rest of the Dems in the district ready to support him/her?
The numbers actually say that there is a reasonable chance of success - Dem registrations outnumber Rep registrations in LD5 by more than 1600 (though the trend there is actually the reverse of the rest of the state - there was a Democratic reg advantage of over 3000 in October, 2006).
An energetic Democratic candidate could benefit from an interesting dynamic in LD5 - while Navajo County has the plurality of Republicans in the district, Gila County also makes up a large part of the district. I don't know how the distribution of Rep PCs in LD5 breaksdown, but I expect that it's pretty evenly split, with a slight numerical advantage to Navajo County. There could be a little intersectional rivalry going on here (or there might not be - I really don't know this part of the state.)
Further complicating things is the fact that while the Navajo County Board of Supervisors doesn't have much say in who the PCs nominate to fill Flake's seat for the remainder of his term, the BOS is 4/5 Democratic and will be unlikely to select someone who is likely to run for the seat as a candidate in September and November.
Especially if a Democratic challenger steps up.
Please note: If I've made any mistakes in my interpretation of any of the relevent sections of law, I plead guilty of trying to read legalese while exhausted. :)
Please feel free to leave a comment with corrections. Just try to keep it constructive. :))
In addition, anyone with further insight into the dynamics of LD5, Dem or Rep, is welcome to share some of that insight.
Have a good night...