A wave of legislative resignations means there are a bunch of new faces at the Capitol this year

By: - January 4, 2022 9:29 am

There were a dozen legislative vacancies since the 2021 legislative session ended. From L to R: new Democratic Reps. Brian Fernandez, Marcelino Quiñonez, Christian Solorio, Christopher Mathis and Sarah Liguori pose for a picture on Dec. 17, 2021. Photo via @RepSolorio/Twitter

In the barely six months since last year’s legislative session ended, there’s been a wave of resignations at the Arizona Legislature: three state senators, all Democrats, left their seats and nine House members are no longer in the lower chamber. 

So when the legislature returns to the Capitol on Jan. 10 for its annual session, there will be 12 people occupying new offices. Here’s a roundup of the resignations and new members.

A trio of new senators

In the Senate, former Democratic legislator Tony Navarrete was first to resign in August after he was arrested for child sex crimes. The Maricopa Board of Supervisors appointed Rep. Raquel Terán to fill the vacant seat.

Terán is joined in crossing the Capitol mall by Stephanie Shahl Hamilton, a Tucson Democrat who moved from the House to the Senate to replace Kristen Engel, who resigned in September to run for Congress.

The third and most recent Senate resignation came from Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, who was tapped to join the Biden administration’s Department of Interior. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors will be tasked with selecting a person to fill that vacancy. 

New House members

In the House, former minority leader Rep. Charlene Fernandez resigned in November to take a job in the Biden administration. The Yuma County Board of Supervisors appointed her son, Brian Fernandez, to replace her. He has worked in the technology sector, advised U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan and the Congressional Black Caucus on technology policy and spent time in politics volunteering for several campaigns, according to a press release from House Democrats.  

Replacing former House members and now Sens. Terán and Stahl Hamilton are Chrisian Solorio of Phoenix and Morgan Abraham of Tucson, respectively. 

Solorio is an architect selected by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to fill Terán’s vacant seat. 

“As a professional architect, I’ve witnessed the disparity in design and disinvestment in communities throughout Arizona,” Solorio said in a press release when he was appointed. 

Abraham, who was appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, was an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve, is a real estate investor and serves as a board member for the Center for Jewish Philanthropy.

“I’m looking forward to working on legislation that promotes economic opportunity here in Pima County and across the state,” Abraham said in a press release. 

Three other Democrats left the House: Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, resigned in September to focus on his run for governor; Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, resigned to fully pursue his bid for attorney general; and Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, resigned to refocus on his medical career. 

Christopher Mathis is stepping into Friese’s seat. Mathis is an attorney in Tucson and health policy expert specializing in elder law, according to a House Democrats press release. 

Sarah Liguori of Phoenix replaced Lieberman. Liguori has a degree in economics, works in commercial real estate and is a licensed financial advisor. 

“I look forward to this opportunity and strive to provide positive change to all people of Arizona,” she said in a press release.  

Marcelino Quiñonez, an actor and playwright who has worked with St. Vincent de Paul and led educational outreach and partnerships for Arizona State University, replaced Rodriguez. 

“I’m filled with gratitude and a deep sense of responsibility,” Quiñonez said when he was sworn in on Dec. 16. 

There are also three new House Republicans in 2022: Neal Carter, Teresa Martinez and Lupe Diaz. 

Carter replaces Rep. Frank Pratt, who died in September. Carter is an attorney, small business owner and community volunteer, according to a House Republicans press release.

“I am humbled to step into the shoes of the late Frank Pratt, shoes which really can’t be filled,” said Carter in a statement. “Serving as state representative is a position of sacred trust, and it is my commitment to serve the people of District 8 with as much diligence as I can to live up to that trust.”

Martinez, meanwhile, was chosen to replace Rep. Bret Roberts, who resigned in September and moved out of state. She works as U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s director of coalitions and Hispanic outreach. Martinez has been political director and coalitions director for the Arizona Republican Party and worked in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office under Michele Regan.

“I sought to serve in the State Legislature because I want to do the tough work on behalf of the people who live in Pinal County,” said Martinez. “Work that will improve quality of life, promote freedom for all, and make government more accountable to the people it serves.”

And Diaz, a pastor and former president of Benson/San Pedro Valley Chamber of Commerce, replaced Rep. Becky Nutt, who resigned in November.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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