State Senator John Huppenthal Clashed With Opponent's Supporter, Witness Says

By Ray Stern

Arizona State Senator John Huppenthal (pictured below) got permission from a property owner to remove a campaign sign before being accosted by one of his political opponent's supporters, says a witness to Tuesday's clash at a Chandler polling place.

The witness, who wanted to remain anonymous for this article, says Huppenthal -- a Republican who represents Chandler and part of Tempe -- went inside the office of Country Brook Apartments on Tuesday afternoon to inquire about a campaign sign on the property.

The apartment complex at 4909 W. Joshua Boulevard, near Rural and Ray roads, served as one of the Valley's polling places for Tuesday's election.

After receiving permission to remove the sign, which was critical of Huppenthal's efforts to improve air quality at Tempe's Corona Del Sol High School, Huppenthal proceeded to take the sign from its poles, the witness says. A woman who had been handing out pamphlets for Huppenthal's opponent, Democrat Ted Maish, then grabbed the sign.

A Washington Post article says the woman is 78-year-old Ruth Levin, and that Levin identified the man as Huppenthal. Channel 12 has a video interview with the woman posted on its Web site.

Chandler police Detective Frank Mendoza says a "little tug of war with the sign" ensued.

Mendoza says police are investigating the incident as a possible disorderly conduct violation, but have not identified Huppenthal as the man involved. All they know is that the man was driving a gold Lexus SUV registered to Huppenthal, Mendoza tells New Times.

The witness to the incident says "tug-of-war" is an exaggeration. The woman grabbed the sign and Huppenthal pulled it away from her, the witness says.

After Huppenthal put the sign in his SUV, the woman opened the vehicle's door, both the witness and police say. Mendoza says the woman saw business cards for Huppenthal inside the vehicle.

The SUV drove off and the woman (pictured at left) stayed behind to make a statement to police.

A woman who answered the phone at the Country Brook Apartments office says none of the apartment workers remember Huppenthal or anyone else coming in Tuesday to ask about removing a sign. However, the woman says it's possible Huppenthal talked to an office worker who had since gone home.

Problems with signs have plagued Huppenthal's latest bid to keep the senate seat he's held since 1992. Last week, Phoenix workers made Huppenthal take down extra-large signs he had put up to counter what he told the Ahwatukee Foothills News was a "last minute smear campaign." Huppenthal later put the signs back up in two pieces to get around restrictions on sign size.