Governor Doug Ducey speaking with attendees at the 2018 Legislative Forecast Luncheon hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix in Phoenix, Arizona. / Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

Doug Ducey delivered the last State of the State address of his first term as governor yesterday. He began the speech by highlighting Arizona’s position as a leader in female representation in government.

Governor Ducey pointed to the fact that Arizona has had more women governors than any other state. Since Rose Mofford became the first women to be governor of Arizona in 1988, the voters have elected a woman to the highest office in four of the last five elections.

He also noted that Arizona has the highest percentage of women in the state legislature in the country, currently more than 40 percent. Governor Ducey continued:

“There are no lack of powerful and impressive women role models for the young people of our state, inside and outside of government – Moms and grandmothers. Judges and mayors. Congresswomen and CEOs. The first female NFL coach. A university president. The chancellor of the largest community college in the country. The police and fire chiefs of the fifth largest city in America.”

However, the Governor’s praise glosses over the difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties.

Party differences

There are 90 members of the Arizona legislature: 30 in the Senate and 60 in the House. Currently, the Republicans control both chambers: 17 seats in the Senate and 34 seats in the House.

In 2016, voters elected 35 women to the legislature: 17 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Since then, Republican Senator Debbie Lasko resigned to run for Congress and Sine Kerr was appointed to replace Senator Steve Montenegro.

In all 49 percent of Democrats in the state legislature are women: 50 percent in the House and 46 percent in the Senate. The numbers don’t look as good for the Republicans.

Currently, 34 percent of Republicans in the legislature are women: 26 percent in the House and 50 percent in the Senate.

The difference in the gender split between Republicans and Democrats can be partially explained by the candidates that voters chose in the primaries. In 2016, Democrats and Republican primary voters chose the same number of women to be their parties’ candidates for the Arizona Senate. Whereas for the House, Republicans only voted for 11 women to run in the general election compared to the Democrat’s 21.

The same party difference is seen at the congressional level.

Five Democratic Congresswomen have been elected from Arizona since 1912. The first being Isabella Greenway who served as Arizona’s at-large Representative from 1933 to 1937.

Congresswoman Martha McSally currently representing congressional district 2 is the only Republican woman elected to the House of Representatives from Arizona.

While Governor Ducey wasn’t wrong in his State of the State that Arizona leads the way in women state government, he left out the important point that it is the Democrats that are leading the charge for equality.

This can also be seen in the controversy surrounding state Representative Don Shooter (R-Yuma).

A bizarre conversation

In an apparent reference to the reports of sexual harassment by members of the Arizona legislature, Governor Ducey said in his State of the State speech:

“It should go without saying, but it bears repeating: Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Always. No exceptions. Private sector. Public sector. In my office. In state agencies. In this chamber. And everywhere else.”

The most high profile allegations of sexual harassment have been made against Representative Shooter. Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) was the first to publicly accuse Shooter of wrongdoing.

Ugenti-Rita said in a tweet, “I’ve been contacted by several people concerning an individual regarding my sexual harassment claim and confirm Don Shooter is one of them.”

In November, the Arizona House opened investigations into the multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Shooter by members of the legislature and several lobbyists.

Don Shooter vehemently denies the allegations.

In a bizarre encounter at a political event with Dennis Welch, the political editor at KTVK in Phoenix, Shooter refused to comment on the allegations. The interaction was recorded on video and shows Shooter’s strange and hostile behavior.

The impromptu interview was so strange that it is worth including the transcript in full:

Dennis Welch: Representative Shooter …

Don Shooter: Get outta here.

W: We want you – we wanted to ask you to respond to all the women who have made accusations.

S: There is an ongoing investigation. Can’t comment.

W: Well you’ve got to comment about the women, what the women are saying about you.

S: No, Dennis, I don’t have to. There’s an ongoing investigation.

W: Do you think this is a distraction from the legislative session?

S: There’s an ongoing investigation, I will have no comment.

At this point, Shooter turns towards the camera.

S:There’s an ongoing investigation, I will have no comment to you. Any confusion?

W: No, there’s no…

S: At a certain point, you are the one that’s harassing people.

W: I’m not harassing anyone…

S: You are harassing me. I feel, I feel harassed.

W: Public …

S: I feel harassed.

W: … has the right to answers.

S: Yeah well I feel harassed in public.

W: But you’re an elected official you should be answering these kinds of questions. You’ve been accused of some serious…

Shooter, who has been visibly hostile since the beginning of the conversation, starts to walk away from reporter and cameraman. After taking a few steps, he turns and approaches the camera. Staring directly into the camera, Shooter circles the cameraman before turning back to Dennis Welch.

W: What are you doing?

S: What are you doing?

W: Why’d you do that?

S: Seemed the right thing to do.

Representative Shooter then returns to his table.

Less than a week after the odd encounter, Don Shooter gave a speech to his colleagues apologizing for his actions without admitting that his actions were sexual harassment.

“I was beyond embarrassed to hear that what I thought were welcomed and well-intentioned hugs were perceived as creepy and lecherous,” Shooter explained. “I didn’t know. As soon as I did know, I have been – and am, so sorry.”

His comments were made just before a mandatory sexual harassment training for members of the Arizona House.