The death of state Sen. Chester Crandell last week threw the already unusual race in the district that includes Northern Gila County into deep uncertainty. Crandell’s family found him dead after he went for a ride on a young, unfamiliar horse on a Heber ranch, where he lived with his wife of 45 years. … Crandell’s death weeks before his uncontested primary left the election in deep uncertainty. The tragic turn will likely boost the prospects of former state Senator Tom O’Halleran’s campaign as an Independent. Secretary of State Ken Bennett determined that Crandell’s name will remain on the ballot and that the deadline has passed for write-in candidates to qualify for the primary. Instead, the Republican committee precinct chairmen from Gila, Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties will convene in Flagstaff after the primary and select a candidate whose name will appear on the November ballot along with O’Halleran’s. Write-in candidates can also still qualify for the November ballot.
Bennett said the Navajo County Board of Supervisors will pick someone to serve the balance of Crandell’s term, which ends in January. That leaves O’Halleran the only name certain to appear on the November ballot in a seat in which Republicans have an advantage — but mostly because Independents in the district usually vote Republican rather than Democratic.