Who is Olivia Cortes, and why has she filed to run in the November 8 recall race against state Senate President Russell Pearce in Legislative District 18?
Over the weekend, I paid Cortes' modest condominium in Mesa a visit. A woman identifying herself as Cortes' sister came to the door. She said Cortes had gone to the store. She didn't know when she would be back.
I left my card and requested that her sister call me.
Since then, I've called Cortes several times, sometimes leaving a message on her answering machine. Other times talking to her sister, who always tells me Cortes has gone to the store, and that she has no idea when she'll be back.
Yesterday, Cortes e-mailed me asking that I submit my questions in writing.
I did so, and she responded with the answers below just as I was publishing this blog item.
I haven't been the only one trying to speak with Cortes and find out what she's all about.
Blase wondered if Cortes needed help gathering the 621 signatures necessary to place her name on the November 8 ballot.
"She told me that she did not want any more volunteers," Blase explained via e-mail, "and she did not want volunteers to help her. I asked her if she had any political experience and she said no. Since she is running against Russell Pearce, I asked her if she had reached out to Jerry Lewis a fellow member of her church, and she said no.
"I don't understand Olivia. If she was running against Pearce, why wouldn't she reach out to the other candidate(s) to learn more about them before putting her hat into the race?
"I am looking forward to finding out more about where Olivia is getting help with regard to her signatures she needs since she has turned down volunteers. It's a tight closed little world with regard to the `elect Cortes campaign,' and that indeed smells fishy to me especially when she wants to run for a State senate position that will affect all Arizonans."
Along these lines, several sources have alleged to me that Cortes was recruited by someone in Pearce's camp, and that Pearce supporters will be collecting her signatures.
As you'll see below, Cortes denies this.
The advantage to Pearce of having a woman with a Latino name on the ballot is obvious. Political insiders from Mesa have indicated that this is part of Pearce's strategy to win: Dilute the anti-Pearce vote by offering up candidates other than Republican contender Jerry Lewis.
Cortes, who is in her late 50s, is also a Republican, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She has identified herself as being retired from the company Freescale Semiconductor, a former division of Motorola.
Her Facebook pages (she has three, with 36 "friends" at the most so far) note that she attended Mesa High School and Mesa Community College. In the past she has "liked" GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and RightChange.com, a group that doles out money to Republican campaigns.
Concerning the claim by some that Cortes is a plant, I've left messages and sent e-mails to Matt Tolman, chair of Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall, and I've e-mailed Pearce. Neither have responded.
Yesterday, when I spoke with Jesse Hernandez, a staffer for Republican Arizona Congressman David Schweikert and chair of the organization Patriots for Pearce, I asked him if he had recruited Cortes to run.
He replied that, "I've never been in the same room with her."
Thing is, even if Cortes remains a stealth candidate, laying low and answering reporters questions by e-mail, she will eventually have to submit her signatures to score a spot on the ballot. Last day to file is September 9.
When she does, the names of the people who circulated her petitions will be public record. At that point, it should be relatively easy to determine if there's someone else behind her candidacy.
CORTES' ANSWERS TO MY QUESTIONS:
1) Why are you running in the LD 18 recall election?
To offer the voters a choice.
I am a Republican. I am not a member of any tea party. And my support for Mitt Romney does not obligate me to support Senator Pearce.
3) What qualifies you to represent LD 18?
I care for my community and my state.
4) I have more than one source who has informed me that you were asked to run so as to help dilute the anti-Pearce vote. How do you respond to this accusation? Is this true? Who asked you to run? Did they promise you anything?
That is not true
5) Who is collecting signatures for you?
My friends and I
6) Are you a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
7) Why don't you have a campaign website? Why haven't you held an official announcement or a press conference?
I am too busy collecting signatures to have time for press conferences. Plus reporters don't vote in this election, so i need to spend my time talking to actual voters
8) Where do you work now?
I am retired.
9) Is anyone running your campaign? If so, who?
I am doing it with the help of my friends
10) Have you ever met Russell Pearce? If so, how well do you know him?
I have never met Russell Pearce.
Thanks in advance for your responses,
You are welcome. I am not a fan of your newspaper and disagree with its agenda, but your questions are fair and reasonable. That said, i intend to spend my time in my district talking to my voters, so i do not expect to spend any more time debating this race with your paper. I hope you understand.
11)Pardon me for asking, but I want to be accurate, are you 58 or 59? Also, has anyone from the Pearce camp or representing Pearce in any way contacted you? Same for Lewis.
I'm 58 years old and haven't been approached by Mr. Pearce camp, but have been asked to step down by Mr. Lewis camp.