Originally published Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 12:01p.m.

PHOENIX — A Cave Creek Democrat has taken the first legal steps that could lead to a recall of state Rep. David Stringer.

Chris Hanlon has filed the necessary papers with the Secretary of State’s Office to begin collecting and spending money.

He said his newly formed organization, Arizona Deserves Better, has members who live in the Prescott Republican’s legislative district who are from both parties and some who are political independents.

For now, “we’re watching the House Ethics Committee very closely,” Hanlon said.

That panel is reviewing a pair of complaints against Stringer by colleagues dealing with his controversial statements last year about race and immigration, as well as the recent disclosure he was arrested in 1983 in Baltimore on charges including child pornography.

At this point all that has happened is that Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who chairs the committee, has hired outside attorneys to look into the complaints.

“We believe that David Stringer has proven himself unfit to serve in the Arizona Legislature and we think he should be removed,” Hanlon said.

That is an option if the Ethics Committee finds Stringer violated House rules, including bringing disrepute onto the Legislature. But the committee only makes a recommendation, with the final decision up to the full House.

Hanlon said members of his group are willing to let that process play out — but only for so long.

“If action is not forthcoming in a timely way, we will act” on the recall effort, he said.

There was no immediate response from Stringer, who has said he has “no criminal record,” apparently because he entered into a plea agreement which was supposed to expunge the court records after he completed probation.

A recall is a heavy lift.

It takes the signatures of 25 percent of those who voted in the last election to force a special election. In this case, it would take at least 24,990 valid signatures on petitions to force a recall election.

And recall backers have just 120 days from the time they start circulating petitions to reach that goal.

To date there has been only one successful legislative recall. In 2011 voters in the Mesa area ousted then-Senate President Russell Pearce, after he crafted controversial state laws against illegal immigration.

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