Grant Woods, dead at 67, leaves long legacy in Arizona politics – Arizona Daily Star

Grant Woods, dead at 67, leaves long legacy in Arizona politics

PHOENIX — Former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods, who left the party in 2018 to become a Democrat, died Saturday.

The cause of death for the 67-year-old Woods was not immediately made available.

Woods, who entered politics as chief of staff to the late Sen. John McCain, served eight years as the state’s top prosecutor.

That paralleled the time that Republican Fife Symington was governor, a fact that often resulted in the pair squabbling over issues like the governor ordering Woods to drop his historic lawsuit against tobacco companies, an order he ignored, managing to get a settlement of hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.

And it was Woods, after Symington was convicted in federal court of defrauding creditors, who told the governor he legally had to leave office and could not wait while the case was on appeal.

There were other ways Woods developed a reputation as someone who did not toe the party line.

In 1997, for example, he helped put a measure on the ballot to prevent lawmakers from tinkering with what voters had approved.

That followed the 1996 voter approval of a measure allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana and other illegal drugs. The Republican-controlled Legislature, insisting voters didn’t understand what they were doing, effectively repealed it the following year.

Woods said while he opposed the 1996 initiative, he did not think it was right for lawmakers to second-guess what voters had enacted. The measure, approved in 1998, became the Voter Protection Act.

He did support and campaign for some Republicans, including Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010.

Out of office for nearly two decades, Woods formally broke with the GOP in 2018. He said at the time much of that was due to his frustration with the Republican Party and that its members would not stand up to then-President Donald Trump.

He also endorsed Kyrsten Sinema in her 2018 bid for U.S. Senate, when she became the first Democrat elected from Arizona in two decades.

In 2020, Woods weighed his own bid for the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by McCain but ended up backing out. That race subsequently was won by Democrat Mark Kelly.

While on the political sidelines since then, Woods stayed involved in politics, becoming a verbal critic of the the state Senate’s audit of the 2020 election returns, calling it “a clown show” and saying those hired “have no idea what they’re doing.”

There are other issues where Woods did not go along with what at the time was the prevailing GOP philosophy.

In 1996, for example, a group launched an initiative drive designed to reduce the flow of people entering the state illegally, with sanctions against employers who hire people not here legally, and mandatory cooperation of local law enforcement with federal immigration officials.

Woods lined up against the measure along with fellow Republican Lisa Graham Keegan, the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

His bucking of the GOP line goes back even farther.

In 2010 he threw his support behind Democrat Felecia Rotellini for the job he once held, saying she was the better candidate than Republican Tom Horne. That, however, didn’t help Rotellini win.

Four years later — and while still a Republican — Woods again crossed party lines with a 2014 commercial supporting Democrat Fred DuVal for governor over Republican Doug Ducey. That endorsement also was not enough to help the Democrat win the race.

Woods also was an early supporter of an effort to repeal a 2008 voter-approved measure that denied the rights right of gays to marry.

He opposed various efforts pushed by Republicans and their allies in the business community to amend the Arizona Constitution to allow lawmakers to limit lawsuits and jury awards.

And he worked with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a Democrat and one-time gubernatorial hopeful, to create “wide open primaries,” where any registered voters would be able to cast a ballot in the primary election, with no regard to party. That never was enacted.

During his time as attorney general, Woods developed a reputation for enforcement of laws protecting consumers.

For example, he filed suit in 1993 against two Southern Arizona stores that he said were telling customers that what they were buying was handmade Indian jewelry and that the stones were genuine.

And he went after Circle K for advertising it was selling a “new” formula of gasoline when it ended up being the same stuff the company had sold before. Without admitting a violation, the company agreed to donate 100,000 gallons of gas to charity and $30,000 in costs.

There were some controversies.

Woods and Rob Carey, his chief investigator in the Attorney General’s Office, were the subject of a criminal probe involving commingling of various office funds, including money raised for a Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship and luncheon. Some of the MLK funds were used for staff retreats and spent on beer and rental of a karaoke machine.

The case ended in early 1996 when the pair admitted funds were spent for purposes “other than (those) for which they were solicited or collected.” They paid a civil fine of about $30,000.

Woods, as attorney general, also filed suit to block the designation of 2 million acres as critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, saying, among other things, that the state would suffer financial harm from the loss of revenues in timber sales and grazing rights.

And in 2009 he worked on behalf of the payday loan industry’s quest to be allowed to remain in business with their high-interest, short-term loans, despite a public vote the year before to the contrary.

Woods is survived by his wife, the former Marlene Galan, who was a Phoenix TV reporter when they met, and five children.

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