Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Supporter and Tea Party Chairman Greg Western Submits Sigs for Olivia Cortes

Like you needed more proof that Olivia Cortes' candidacy in the November 8 recall election in Legislative District 18 is all about "diluting" the vote and helping state Senate Russell Pearce beat challenger Jerry Lewis, East Valley Tea Party Chairman Greg Western submitted 1,177 signatures on behalf of Cortes today, just under today's 5 p.m. deadline.

Sources have indicated to me that Western recruited Cortes to run, as they both attend the same Mormon church in Mesa and know each other from there. As he left the Arizona Secretary of State's Office where he'd just dropped off Cortes' petition sheets, he admitted that he and Cortes attend the same church, but he denied that he recruited Cortes.

"I didn't recruit her," he said, as he left. "She decided to run and I decided to help her."

He also denied knowing who paid Petition Pros to gather signatures for Cortes, or ponied up the dough for her illegal campaign signs, bearing the Cesar Chavez slogan, "Si, Se Puede."

"Somebody was paid," he said of the signature-gathering, "but I don't know who did it."

Interestingly, the East Valley Tea Party recently advertised an event for Pearce, and in a 2010 statement to the Maricopa County Republican Party Web site, Western cited Pearce's ascension to the state Senate Presidency as a win for the Tea Party.

"We gained 680 state legislative seats with Arizona and Texas having super majority's [sic]," he wrote in the item. "Russell Pearce has been elected Senate President and has called the upcoming Senate the Tea Party Senate."

Two weeks ago, I stopped by Western's house in Mesa to question him about his involvement in Cortes' candidacy. A woman identifying herself as his wife came to the door. I asked to talk to Western. She said he wasn't home and asked why I wanted to see him.

When I told her, she said didn't know about Cortes' candidacy, but she insisted that her husband supported Pearce.

"I know he's for Russell Pearce," she explained.

At the Secretary of State's Office, I questioned Western about his wife's statement, but he wouldn't answer. Later, I got on the elevator with him, but he refused to ride down with me and took the stairs. So I took the elevator down and waited for him to emerge from the stairwell at the bottom.

I walked behind him outside, asking him about his wife. 

"She told you what she thought she knew," he grumbled.

Earlier, he wouldn't even commit to voting for Cortes, and said he was helping her out to get "experience" in working on campaigns.

Asked about the reports from yesterday of paid signature-gatherers telling people that getting Cortes on the ballot would help split the vote in favor of Pearce, Western said, "Maybe that's why they were helping her and they were putting words in her mouth."

But a second later, he admitted that, "Obviously the more people in there, the less votes that is for everybody else."

Well, no duh, Sherlock. Whoever put Cortes up to run must've thought this was a pretty smooth move. If I were them, I'd be praying that she doesn't make the ballot. Because if she does, she'll be an albatross around his thick, sweaty red neck.

She needs 621 signatures from qualified LD18 voters. A challenge of the 1,177 Western turned in for her is possible.

Libertarian Michael Kielsky was a no-show, BTW. Earlier in the day, he bowed out and threw his support behind Lewis. Kudos to him for doing so.

Irony of ironies: Pearce is the most anti-Latino politician in America, and yet his supporters recruit a little Latina lady to help him out.

Which, in the end, may be his downfall. How delicious is that?

Note: Garin Groff's article in the Tribune states that, "Western, chairman of the East Valley Tea Party, acknowledged he had recruited Cortes to run in the special election, saying they both belong to the same Mormon church." Actually, Western denied this, according to my recording of the media scrum jumping Western.

Update: Pearce-foe Jerry Lewis has issued the following statement regarding the Cortes-Western charade:

"I am in this race to bring integrity and respect to Mesa's politics. This political stunt, designed to deceive voters, is a symptom of our currently ailing political climate. I am very disappointed. I call for a fresh start for Mesa, focused on how we can improve education and bring back jobs and strengthen our economy."

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