PHOENIX -- A new state senator for northeastern Arizona's 7th District might face a residency challenge because he's lived for years in the Phoenix area and just changed his voter registration to Apache County.
Democrat Carlyle W. Begay was sworn into office at the Capitol on Tuesday to replace Sen. Jack Jackson Jr. The Apache County Board of Supervisors appointed Begay last week.
Rep. Albert Hale was one of three people who applied to a citizens' commission for the job. Hale's lawyer told the Arizona Capitol Times he might challenge Begay's residency because Begay must have lived in Apache County for a year before representing the area in the Legislature. Begay has lived in Gilbert for several years but changed his voter registration to Apache County on July 22.
Begay told The Associated Press Tuesday that he's not concerned about the possible challenge.
"I've maintained residency within Apache County," Begay said after the swearing-in ceremony. "I'm well aware of legal opinions and legal positions that were previously released by the attorney general and Maricopa County. I'm well aware of the law and the statutes within Arizona."
Hale's lawyer, Tom Ryan, told the Capitol Times that Begay's service on Gilbert's Industrial Development Authority Board is evidence that Begay's true residence is in Maricopa County.
Members of the board "must reside within the Town limits and be qualified electors," according to Gilbert's website.
"His home is in Gilbert, his work is in Phoenix, he's registered to vote, or at least was up until July 22, in Maricopa County," Ryan said.
Begay told the AP he has never attended a meeting of that board, although he's a current member. He said he wanted to learn how cities work on infrastructure so he could use that to help tribal development.
Begay, 32, was born in Tuba City and attended the University of Arizona. He works as a vice president of business development for Phoenix-based American Indian Health Management and Policy.
Ryan said he's sending a "quo warranto" to Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting and Attorney General Tom Horne demanding that either official take action to stop the appointment on the grounds that Begay would unlawfully be holding office as the 7th District's senator.
Arizona's constitution said candidates cannot serve in the Legislature unless they've lived in the county they're going to represent for at least one year before taking office.
"You only get one residency," Ryan said. "The fact that he has a summer home up there or something like that ... it still doesn't wash."
Ryan and Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting did not immediately return calls from the AP on Tuesday. The Arizona attorney general's office could not immediately say if a challenge has been received.