State Senator Sylvia Allen won’t seek re-election in a redrawn district that includes northern Gila County.
The staunchly conservative Snowflake Republican, who served as Senate President Pro Tem and championed independence for Gila Community College, said the demands on her family convinced her to instead seek an open seat on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors.
“I feel sad about it,” said Allen, “but it’s the right decision for me and my family right now. I’ve been thinking about it for four months. A lot of different decisions went into this: It’s been very, very stressful to be gone a lot.”
She noted that State House Representative Chester Crandell has decided now to run for her seat, which will open up the District 6 race in the House. Incumbent House Rep. Brenda Barton will run for re-election, after establishing an address in Payson.
On the Democratic side, House Representative Tom Chabin is running for the Senate seat in a district that tilts Republican, but includes a solid core of Flagstaff Democrats — making it one of the most competitive races in the state. He’s a former Coconino County supervisor and former Tuba City School Board member.
The party breakdown in the district is 38 percent Republican, 29 percent Democrat and 33 percent Independent. Northern Gila County accounts for about 18 percent of the district’s population.
Sen. Allen said the dramatic statewide redistricting that moved her from District 5 to District 6 didn’t play a major role in her decision.
Her decision not to run “is not necessarily because of the new district,” which now runs from Snowflake in the White Mountains, across northern Gila County then up through Sedona and Flagstaff onto the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The old district had included the eastern third of Arizona from the outskirts of Maricopa County on up to the Navajo Reservation.
“When you’re a rural legislator, you have to drive many hours. If I was taking care of constituent matters, I was just gone a lot,” said Allen. “It’s a sacrifice for my husband, for my children, for my grandchildren.”
However, she said that if she wins a seat on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors she can continue to battle for local control of roads and forest management.
In the Senate, she chaired the Border Security, Federalism, & States Sovereignty Committee, was vice chair of the Natural Resources and Transportation Committee and served on the Appropriation and Rules committees.
She was perhaps best known in Rim Country for her effort to win equal treatment for Gila Community College despite its provisional status. She championed a bill that provided the college with workforce development funds and made it at least possible for the district to eventually achieve independence. However, lobbyists for other community colleges convinced her colleagues to strip out most money those bills might have provided.
Sen. Allen took a leading role in the increasingly confrontational relationship between the Legislature and the federal government, especially after the massive Wallow Fire last summer charred some 530 square miles in the White Mountains. She also became deeply involved in border security issues and most recently pushed for an armed state militia to patrol the border, despite the objections of the federal government.
She said she wants to use her state legislative experience now to help Navajo County.
“My family roots run deep in Navajo County,” Allen said.
“This is home. We have many pressing issues here in this county that I would like to address so our children and grandchildren can stay here to raise their families.
“I feel that my experience and relationships with state leaders can do more for my constituents in Navajo County if I serve on the county board than I can do in the years ahead in the Legislature.”