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Matt Kopec appointed to replace Steele in LD9

A Tucson City Council aide and Democratic activist was appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to replace Victoria Steele in the state Legislature. Matt Kopec was sent to Phoenix to represent LD9 on a 4-1 vote.

On his taking the oath of office Wednesday, the 27-year-old became the youngest member of the Legislature.

Local Democrats nominated three party regulars Friday: Pamela Powers Hannley, Ted Prezelski, and Kopec.

Immediately after the appointment vote, Kopec said he was "going to go home to pack."

The new lawmaker said he'd already lined up living arrangements in Phoenix for the legislative session. He acknowledged he would be taking a severe pay cut — from about $38,000 working as an aide for Councilwoman Karin Uhlich to the $24,000 paid to state legislators — but said he was eager to get to the state Capitol and begin work.

House Democratic leader Eric Meyer (Paradise Valley) said he was "pleased to welcome Matt Kopec" to the party's caucus.

"I applaud his willingness to participate in the legislative process by serving the people of Legislative District 9. He is a Tucson native and has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the community," Meyer said in a press release. "Our caucus members are looking forward to working with him, and we trust that he will represent the values of the region."

Kopec said he didn't have any specific legislation he would rush to file for consideration. Bills in the Arizona House must be introduced by Feb. 8 this year.

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Powers Hannley said before the vote that she would continue her campaign through fall election cycle regardless of who was appointed to fill the remainder of the term.

Kopec also said he would compete in the fall election. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Randy Friese is running for reelection in the district. Each legislative district in Arizona sends two representatives and one senator to Phoenix, so LD9 Democrats will see a primary race for the state House.

Wednesday morning, Kopec was sworn in. He reiterated his intention to run in the fall cycle despite reports by other media outlets that he would only serve out Steele's term as a caretaker. He filed paperwork for his candidacy after taking the oath of office.

Kopec will serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

The appointment process was triggered when state Rep. Victoria Steele resigned her seat to focus on her run to be the Democratic candidate to challenge U.S. Rep. Martha McSally.

In addition to Kopec, who has been the treasurer for the Pima County Democratic Party, those nominated by the LD 9 precinct committee members Friday night were:

  • Progressive blogger Pamela Powers Hannley, who is the managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, had already formed a campaign for the seat for November's election.
  • Ted Prezelski, an aide to Councilman Paul Cunningham who reports on soccer for TucsonSentinel.com and is a longtime Democratic activist. Prezelski lost in a 2010 Democratic primary for a House seat in then LD 28.

The lone dissenting vote on Kopec's appointment came from GOP Supervisor Ally Miller, who didn't comment on the choice.

The Board of Supervisors was required by state law to fill the seat based on nominations forwarded by members of the same party as the resigning lawmaker.

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courtesy Luke Knipe

Kopec, Powers Hannley and Prezelski on Friday.