Facing expulsion for threatening to kill a lobbyist, Rep. Leezah Sun resigned from the legislature

Minutes before the Arizona House of Representatives was set to vote on expelling her from the chamber in the wake of an ethics probe that found she engaged in “disorderly behavior,” including threatening to kill a lobbyist, Rep. Leezah Sun resigned.

The embattled Phoenix Democrat was the subject of a monthslong investigation by the House Ethics Committee, after Democratic leadership filed a complaint against her alleging a concerning “pattern of behavior” that reflected poorly on the legislature.

The House Ethics Committee concluded on Tuesday that Sun, who was in her first term as a state legislator, had used her position to influence the outcome of a child custody arrangement, intimidated a school superintendent and threatened to kill a Tolleson city lobbyist by throwing her off of a balcony.

Shortly before the House began its work for the day, a resolution to expel Sun was introduced. The 60-member body was set to vote on the matter shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, but Sun resigned before it could do so, House Speaker Ben Toma announced from the dais. Expulsion takes a two-thirds supermajority, but Republicans and Democrats seemed united in their belief that Sun’s behavior warranted removing her from the body, and it was expected she would be expelled.

“Our Democratic leadership team is grateful to the Ethics Committee for its diligent, intensive and transparent work on this report, and to the witnesses who came forward to share their stories under incredibly difficult circumstances. The facts are overwhelmingly clear and speak for themselves. Representative Sun engaged in a pattern of disorderly behavior that damaged the reputation of the House. This is a solemn day, but Representative Sun did what’s best for our state and for the integrity of this body,” House Democratic leaders said in a statement.

House Minority Leader Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, told reporters that Sun resigned via email shortly before the start of the floor session, heading off any action from the full chamber.

“This is a decision (made) by her and I respect her decision,” he said.

Sun’s empty seat isn’t the only vacancy Democrats in the House have to contend with. Last week, Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, resigned to pursue a career in health policy. And on Wednesday, minutes after Sun emailed her resignation, Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix, announced his long expected resignation from the lower chamber to focus on his bid for Congress. Contreras said he expects their positions will be filled promptly, and hopes that, with Sun’s ethics investigation resolved, the legislature can turn back to representing and advocating on behalf of its constituents.

“We have work to do, for not just us but for all of our Arizonans,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll come back and still do what we do.”

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