Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark has confirmed that 68-year-old Arizona Senator Chester Crandell (R) was found dead on the Despain Ranch in Heber-Overgaard at approximately 2 p.m. Monday. Crandell had taken a young colt out for a trail ride Monday morning and when he did not return home as expected, his family grew concerned. His body was later discovered on the ranch with the young horse nearby. Early reports indicate that although Crandell was an accomplished horseman the “green” colt he was riding may have bucked him off causing the injuries that resulted in his death. At this time, the medical examiner has not released the actual cause of Crandell’s death and there remains speculation as to whether he died from a potential heart attack, a fall or other causes. Foul play however, is not suspected.
Crandell leaves behind his wife of 46 years, Alice, nine children and 36 grandchildren. In a statement to the press, Sheriff Clark extended his deepest sympathies and said that Crandell’s death is a “a tragic loss” for family and friends. He further praised Crandell for being not only a “good man” but also for being a “strong voice for rural Arizona.”
By order of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, flags across the state will be lowered to half-mast until sunset on August 11. Brewer has expressed that she is “deeply saddened” by Crandell’s death calling him not just a legislator but also “a gentleman with a tangible love for Arizona and those he served.”
Senator Crandell, a 5th generation Arizona native served on several Senate committees including the State Board of Education and the Governors P20 Committee on Standards and Assessments. He was a member of the Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association, The AZ Cattle Growers Association, the AZ Quarter Horse Association as well as the National Rifle Association (NRA).
As the incumbent Republican candidate without primary opposition, Crandell was slated to face off in the August 26, 2014 Senate primary race against Independent Party Candidate Tom O’Halleran from Sedona. Arizona law allows for write-in candidates as long as they register by five days before the primary date. Write-in candidates are unlikely to win against retired Chicago Police Detective and Republican turned Independent, O’Halleran. O’Halleran served in the Arizona State Senate from 2007 to 2009 and in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006. He changed his party affiliation in May of 2014 apparently because he was not satisfied with Republican performance on issues such as “education, water and child-welfare.”
Senator Crandell was known not just for championing conservative causes but also as a friend to small business, agriculture and the rural community. His death represents a loss to family, friends, colleagues and constituents and while his passing means he will no longer be able to serve the state of Arizona, he does have a proposal that will remain on the November ballot. The Arizona State Sovereignty Amendment (Proposition 122), if passed, would amend the Arizona Constitution to recognize the U.S. Constitution as “the supreme law of the land to which all government, state and federal, is subject.” However, the proposition would allow Arizona to exercise sovereign authority to protect itself from the use of state resources “to enforce, administer or cooperate” with federal dictates. Crandall believed that the U.S. Constitution is designed to “limit federal power” but not the power of the states and the measure was a response to the belief that the Obama administration has inflicted federally mandated unconstitutional actions on the state of Arizona.
By Alana Marie Burke