by Dustin Gardiner – Jan. 16, 2012 09:49 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Republican Party leaders in the northwest Valley voted Monday night to nominate three potential replacements for Sen. Scott Bundgaard, who abruptly resigned this month amid an ethics scandal.
GOP precinct leaders named Rep. Judy Burges, attorney Eric Spencer and Lyle Tuttle as their picks to serve the rest of his term, which ends this year. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will now select a replacement from the list of names.
The three were chosen from a pool of seven candidates, each giving a five-minute speech and pledging to represent the district’s conservative values.
Bundgaard, a Peoria Republican, resigned Jan. 6 during an ethics inquiry into his conduct in a fight with then-girlfriend Aubry Ballard along a Valley freeway in February. He had represented District 4, which includes much of Surprise, Sun City West and parts of Glendale and Peoria. According to testimony from the Senate Ethics Committee hearing, a possibly intoxicated Bundgaard got into a fight with Ballard and stopped his car on the side of Arizona 51, partly in the HOV lane. Witnesses said he hit Ballard, dragged her out of his car into the freeway and shook her.
Ballard’s testimony was, perhaps, the most damaging. She told the committee that Bundgaard had choked and thrown her during a quarrel after both had been drinking on New Year’s Eve, nearly two months before the Feb. 25 incident. She did not report that incident to police.
Bundgaard’s resignation, delivered in a brief letter, came during a committee lunch break, shortly before he was set to testify. He gave no reason for why he abruptly decided to resign, though lawmakers and attorneys familiar with the inquiry said that after a day and a half of damning testimony, the Senate likely would have expelled him. Bundgaard had said he was innocent in the freeway fight and that he was looking forward to an impartial ethics investigation to clear up the “parade of misinformation” surrounding the case. He had earlier sued to block the ethics hearing, saying the committee had not followed its own rules, but a judge dismissed his lawsuit.
After a two-hour meeting in Sun City on Monday, GOP leaders from the area said they were eager to move on from the bruising Senate ethics investigation into Bundgaard.
“We’re relieved that our party doesn’t have things that might hurt us in the general election (this) year,” said Rep. Jack Harper, R-Surprise. “We’re all sorry for Aubry Ballard and what she had to go through last year.”
Harper said the committeemen chose “three solid conservatives” to move the party forward.
Burges, R-Sun City West, has been discussed as a likely successor. She has represented the district in the state House of Representatives since 2005 and has indicated she would run for the Senate seat this summer; she is term-limited from running for re-election in the House. She said she has empathy for Bundgaard but is ready for the district to begin the healing process. “I enjoy my job, I enjoy helping people,” Burges said. I’m not quite ready to give it up yet.”
Spencer, a combat veteran who served six years in the Army, is an attorney at Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix and specializes in commercial litigation with emphasis in construction litigation and election law, according to the firm’s website. Spencer previously served as second vice chairman of District 4.
“I think the district has kind of been paralyzed the last year” Spencer said. “I think I was the right guy for the right time.”
Tuttle is a former Maricopa County GOP chairman and has twice served as District 4’s executive director. When asked how he feels about putting the Bundgaard issue in the past, Tuttle said, “I think it’s a sigh of relief.”