- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona lawmaker who’s been indicted on food stamp fraud charges has dropped her re-election bid and apparently is keeping her seat for now.

Paperwork released Friday by the Secretary of State’s office shows Rep. Cecilia Velasquez filled out a form Thursday to voluntarily withdraw as a candidate for the House of Representatives in the Aug. 30 primary election.

Minority Leader Rep. Eric Meyer said Thursday that he had spoken with Velasquez and urged her to resign. But Meyer added that Velasquez “has to be convicted, not just charged,” to lose her right to office.

If convicted of a felony, Velasquez would automatically be ineligible to hold office because she would lose her voting rights.

Velasquez hasn’t returned repeated calls and text messages seeking comment, but said on her Twitter account that she had done nothing wrong and was “confident that justice will prevail once all the facts are known.”

The Arizona Department of Economic Security announced Wednesday that Velasquez was indicted by a state grand jury on felony fraud and two other charges.

The indictment alleges Velasquez fraudulently obtained $1,726 in food stamp benefits between Nov. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2015.

Officials said she falsely claimed two dependents, listed the wrong address and let others use her benefit card.

The DES inspector general launched an investigation in December 2014 after receiving a tip to a fraud hotline.

Velasquez, a Democrat representing Litchfield Park, is serving her first term in the Arizona House. She took office in January 2015.

Her biography says she is a mother of five and runs a group that helps the families of people in prison. She’s also worked as a paralegal and for the state for 12 years in social services.

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