By Linda Kor
The residents of Navajo County, as well as throughout the state, are mourning the loss of State Senator Chester Crandell this week. Senator Crandell was found dead by family members on Aug. 4 after going on a horseback ride at the DeSpain ranch near Heber. He left for the ride on a young horse and after being gone more than an hour, family members went in search of him and discovered his body. Although the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into the cause of death, Sheriff KC Clark indicated that Crandell’s horse was not used to being ridden and may have bucked him off. The senator was 68.
Crandell, who was born in Holbrook and lived in Heber, was involved in many facets of the community prior to the start of his political career.
“Chester was a very good man, very public minded,” recalled former county supervisor J.R. DeSpain, who worked with Crandell for many years on the Navajo County Fair Commission.
“Senator Crandell was very passionate about public education and ensuring that our youth had the opportunity to be part of a global economy,” recalled Holbrook Vice Mayor Charlie Haussman, who heads the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology program at Holbrook High School and worked with Crandell when he was the superintendent of NAVIT.
Crandell, a fifth-generation rural Arizonan and rancher, had served in the state legislature since 2011. In addition to being a former superintendent of NAVIT, he had served as a member of the Heber/Overgaard School District Governing Board.
Crandell was a graduate of Snowflake Union High School, and had a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. He was a devout family man, and he and his wife Alice had nine children.
In the Senate, he was chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Funeral services for Senator Crandell will begin with an 8:30 a.m. visitation followed by an 11 a.m. service on Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Heber Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
With his passing comes the challenge of selecting a new candidate for the upcoming election, as Crandell’s name is listed on the primary ballot as the only candidate. State law requires that a vacancy due to the death of a candidate “shall not be filled.” Therefore, write-in candidates are not authorized and the primary election will move forward with only Senator Crandell’s name on the ballot and the votes will be tabulated.
Following the primary election, the late senator’s spot on the general election ballot will be filled by the party’s precinct committeemen representing the four counties within Legislative District 6, including Navajo, Coconino, Gila and Yavapai. The committeemen will meet and will nominate a candidate of the party’s choice and that candidate’s name will be placed on the ballot for the general election.
The process to fill the remainder of Senator Crandell’s term is separate from the ballot vacancy process, and involves the precinct committeemen of Navajo County nominating three qualified electors to the Navajo County Board of Supervisors, who will make the final appointment. It was noted by Navajo County Elections Director Johnathan Roes that this would be more of a ceremonial gesture, as there is no legislative session scheduled prior to the outcome of the upcoming election.
It was noted in the Aug. 8 edition of The Tribune-News that the process to fill the remainder of Senator Chester Crandell’s term following his death involves the precinct committeemen of Navajo County nominating three qualified electors to the Navajo County Board of Supervisors, who will make the final appointment. Sen. Crandell was a resident of Navajo County and according to A.R.S. 41-1202, the remainder of the senator’s term must be filled by an individual who resides in the same county that he did.