Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Recall: Judge Allows Olivia Cortes to Stay on Ballot

Despite an 11th hour motion asking for a delay in a ruling in the lawsuit aimed at sham recall candidate Olivia Cortes, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke denied the plaintiff's application for a temporary restraining order, leaving Cortes on the November 8 ballot in Legislative District 18.

In his decision, Burke concluded that Pearce's supporters put Cortes on the ballot in order to peel off votes from state Senate President Russell Pearce's main opponent, Republican Jerry Lewis. 

However, he found no outright fraud, and so Cortes remains a candidate for public office, even though she doesn't seem to know her ear from her elbow.

Burke wrote:

Although the court finds that Cortes was "recruited" to run by Western, at the behest of Pearce supporters, to divert votes from Lewis for Pearce's benefit, this court is not convinced that courts should examine and be the final arbiter of the motives political candidates may have for running for election, unless they jump out at one...Mediating against a finding of fraud is that at least the paid petition circulators were clear about their intent when asked how signing the petition would affect Pearce. The fact that nothing was hidden by theses petition gatherers makes it difficult for the court to find fraud.

Cortes testified that she now intends to campaign, has a website, gave one interview to the press on September 27, 2011, and plans to appear at a candidates' forum this week. Whether that is because of her desire to serve in the Arizona Senate or because plaintiff has alerted her, only she knows for sure and it is not this court's job decide this case by speculating on her motive.

The court assumes that candidates have run for office for less than the noble motive of serving the public, which could include getting a better paying job, pension benefits, achieving a position of perceived importance, boredom, or no reason at all. Divining candidates' motives and acting on them is more properly the role of the voters. Plaintiff's remedy is through the ballot box and not the courts.

The judge also pointed out that, 

"Two citizens have already voted. By the time new ballots could be printed and mailed to military and overseas voters, more may have voted. The court cannot take the chance that any voter will be disenfranchised by its ruling.A concomitant right of our citizens is to run for elective office without having their motives examined by the court absent a clear case of fraud."

(You can read Burke's ruling, here.)

That's the bad news. The good news is, the lawsuit was not dismissed. In fact Cortes' lawyer's motion to dismiss the complaint was denied.

Therefore, if attorneys Tom Ryan and H. Michael Wright, and their client LD 18 voter Mary Lou Boettcher, decide to keep the suit active, they can, and they can continue to do discovery, and continue to expose Cortes' candidacy as a sham and link her candidacy directly to Pearce's campaign.

Ryan didn't want to comment until he had a chance to read Burke's ruling. And he wasn't ready to say whether or not he would appeal the judge's decision.

Whatever happens from this point on, the suit has already been a success. It's forced Cortes out of hiding, and made plain to all of the media and the public that she is a diversionary candidate, meant to dilute the vote and assist Pearce in defeating Lewis, even if Cortes herself is too dumb to realize it.

Those opposed to Pearce and the dirty tricks he and his followers are engaged in owe Wright and Ryan thanks. They've taken on this cause pro bono, in the interest of unveiling the deception and underhandedness of Pearce and the Tea Party. 

I hope they continue the fight. At least until November 8, if not beyond.

UPDATE: There's a telephonic conference tomorrow with the judge and the lawyers. We should know if the lawsuit proceeds sometime after that meeting concludes.

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