PHOENIX — Former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods who left the party 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 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 and managed 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 The Republican-controlled legislature, insisting voters didn’t understand what they were doing, effectively repealed it the following year.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.
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 President Trump.
He also endorsed Kyrsten Sinema in her bid 2018 for U.S. Senate and she became the first Democrat elected from Arizona in two decades.
Woods subsequently weighed his a bid for the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by McCain before he died but ended backing out. That race subsequently was won by Democrat Mark Kelly.
While on the political sidelines since then he has stayed involved in politics, becoming a verbal critic of the the state Senate conducted audit of the 2020 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 one 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, however, was not enough to help the Democrat win the race.
Woods also was an early supporter effort to repeal a 2008 voter-approved measure which denied the rights rights of gays to marry.
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.
There were some controversies.
Woods and Rob Carey, his chief investigator, were the subject of a criminal probe involving commingling 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 to be allowed to remain in business with their high-interest, short-term loans despite a public vote the year before to the contrary.
He is survived by his wife, the former Marlene Galan, who was a Phoenix TV reporter when they met.