An AZ Latino Republican Association Leader Aided Sham Candidate Olivia Cortes

If you need a lesson in hysterics, look no further than a new press release from the Arizona Latino Republican Association, which targeted Republican state Senate candidate Bob Worsley over comments he made in an interview with KFYI 550 AM radio host Barry Markson.

Worsley is the rival of disgraced, recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce in the GOP Legislative District 25 primary, and the ALRA has endorsed Pearce, despite Pearce's having sworn to drive as may Latinos from Sand Land as possible.

Markson was discussing the endorsement Pearce had received from a different group, the Arizona Teacher's [sic] Association, which I exposed in my Feathered Bastard blog as probably a sham organization with not one identifiable teacher in it, and he asked Worsley to comment.

"You look at two of his endorsements," Worsley said, "the Arizona Latino Republicans and the Arizona Teacher's Association, two [organizations] you would not naturally think. . . he could claim that he has endorsements from."

That's a fairly tame and accurate statement, as Pearce helped slice the state's education budget to the bone when he was in power and as he was the primary legislative pimp of Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's Latino-targeting ethnic-cleansing law.

Apparently, the ATA's reputation is such that the ALRA took offense at getting mentioned in the same breath, slamming Worsley in a release for having "mis-characterized" the ALRA as "having been formed for the sole purpose of endorsing Russell Pearce."

In other words, the ALRA claims Worsley was calling it a sham — which the ATA certainly seems to be and diversionary candidate Olivia Cortes certainly was during last year's recall election.

You'll remember that Cortes withdrew her candidacy after she and various pro-Pearce folks were dragged into Maricopa County Superior Court by Chandler attorney and verbal pugilist extraordinaire Tom Ryan.

There, Judge Edward O. Burke found that Cortes was recruited to siphon votes away from Pearce's challenger in the recall, current state Senator Jerry Lewis.

Based on Worsley's statement, I don't think he was implying that the ALRA, which has been around for a few years, was a sham organization.

But I now come to find out that a couple of its current board members apparently were involved in some shammy activities during the recall.

According to various sources, the ALRA's current vice president, Constantinos "Dino" Eliades, helped solicit signatures to place Cortes' name on the ballot. Indeed, Eliades' name, address, and signature appear on three petition sheets as a circulator for Cortes.

ALRA board president Rey Torres, who works as a spokesman for Arizona State House Speaker Andy Tobin, did not return calls or Facebook queries for a comment. Ditto Eliades.

However, I was able to get group treasurer Haydee Dawson on the phone, where she admitted that Eliades had assisted Cortes' sham-wow candidacy.

"Dino Eliades was not a member of the board [of the ALRA] at the time," she told me. "As a [Republican] precinct committeeman, he has an obligation to help any candidate get on the ballot, regardless of who it is."

Still, Eliades was an ALRA member and a regular on Radio ALRA, the group's now-defunct Saturday-evening talk-radio program on KKNT 960 AM.

Eliades, supposedly of Greek descent, may not have been acting on the ALRA's behalf, but according to more than one former ALRA member, the group was so concerned about the situation that it discussed pulling Eliades from the show, at least until the Cortes scandal passed.

Ruben Sanchez, who once produced the radio show and who now accuses the ALRA of stealing the show from him and of owing him tens of thousands of dollars for services rendered, remembers such discussions.

"Rey and Haydee wanted to put some distance between themselves and Dino," Sanchez recalled during a recent interview. "Rey told me, 'Look, he can't be on the radio. He can't be assisting on [the show's website],' — 'til the whole thing blew over."

Former ALRA vice president George Ortiz also confirmed that the ALRA knew what Eliades had done and that there was talk about keeping him off the air, but he remembered that Eliades remained on the show anyway.

The anti-Pearce GOP Latino group Somos Republicans had exposed Eliades' involvement with the Cortes affair in September 2011, but the media never picked up on it.

No doubt any connection to the Cortes scandal would have been an embarrassment for the ALRA, which was supporting Pearce in the recall, with Torres actually speaking on Pearce's behalf at a poorly attended rally at Mesa's Hohokam Stadium in October.

Along these lines, before I spoke with Dawson, ALRA communications secretary Jose Borrajero claimed no knowledge of Eliades' work for Cortes.

But Borrajero's recollection of events seems shaky, considering his nervous, angry responses to my questions about him providing the voice in a strange round of robo-calls to constituents of the old Legislative District 18, where the Pearce-Lewis battle took place.

I blogged about the robo-calls just days before the election, noting that the unidentified voice and its robust Spanish accent sounded a lot like Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World." Or the late Ricardo Montalban.

The recorded calls to Democratic voters encouraged listeners to cast a "protest" write-in vote because Cortes had been forced to withdraw and the other two candidates also were Republicans.

Essentially, it was a form of voter suppression, as a write-in candidate has to be registered with the Secretary of State. And there were no write-in candidates registered.

The robo-calls were paid for by the conservative Safeguard Arizona Future PAC, chaired by Teabagger and Pearce loyalist Ron Ludders.

Back then, Ludders did not want to identify the velvety baritone in the robo-call, but I remember him hinting that I could hear the individual on the radio the evening I called him, as Radio ALRA was about to begin.

I didn't make the link at the time, but Borrajero was helping with the show, though, like Eliades, he was not yet an ALRA officer.

Recently, both Sanchez and Ortiz confirmed that Borrajero was the Montalban-esque voice in question.

Borrajero flipped out when I complimented him for being the owner of that robo-call voice.

At one point, he said he couldn't recall whether he had done the robo-call. Later he denied it. And almost immediately thereafter, he said he would neither confirm nor deny that he was the voice.

"I've done several [robo-calls]," he said at one point. "I don't know which one you are talking about specifically, but I'm not going to get into that either. I don't see how that has to do with anything."

I said his voice sounded exactly like the one on the recording. I even offered to play it for him. That's when the line went dead.

When I called Borrajero back, he threatened to accuse me of harassing him. I replied that it was difficult to harass an official spokesman whose name and phone number are on a press release for his organization.

(If you care to compare the robo-call's voice to Borrajero's, you can listen to Borrajero's voice here, and the original robo-call, here.)

Dawson claimed that she'd never heard the robo-calls, though Sanchez told me that everyone at the ALRA knew of them and that Borrajero had even joked about it off-air.

Asked about Sanchez's statements, Dawson chalked it up to their legal tiff. She said the ALRA was suing Sanchez for $1,800, and she laughed at Sanchez's claim that the ALRA owed him much more.

She also offered a strange defense of Olivia Cortes, whom she said she had never met.

"Olivia did get on the ballot, so she's not a sham candidate," Dawson lectured me, adding, "I'm getting tired of hearing that phrase . . . To me, as a fellow female Latino, it's an insult to hear it described that way."

Which, considering that Cortes' name is now a local synonym for the word "sham," must mean that Dawson and her crew are insulted a lot.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons