A judge in Maricopa County, AZ, found that there is evidence that state Senate candidate Olivia Cortes is a sham candidate in the election to recall Senate president Russell Pearce.
Cortes, who dropped out of the race but will still appear on the ballot, was accused of being recruited by Pearce supporters who wanted to split the vote for Pearce’s opponent, Jerry Lewis, particularly in the Hispanic community.
Cortes had kept a low profile throughout the campaign — she dodged reporter questions, had no campaign events and only a few signs, and launched her website pretty late in the game. And then there were accounts by local reporters that paid signature gatherers for Cortes’ candidacy admitted that she was supposed to split the anti-Pearce vote. “She’s running on her own,” one petitioner reportedly said. “But the whole purpose is to split the vote. So that everyone who [is] against [Pearce] will vote for two people instead of one, and that way [Pearce] will get the most votes.”
And, from the New York Times:
Greg Western, a Pearce ally who is the chairman of the East Valley Tea Party, was a central figure in the scheme and became Ms. Cortes’s campaign adviser. Soon, signs promoting Ms. Cortes’s candidacy appeared on street corners, bearing the motto made famous by Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers: “Si, Se Puede!”
Additionally, Pearce’s nieces were revealed to be collecting signatures for Cortes, accompanied by one of his brothers. Cortes agreed to pull out of the race before Pearce’s relatives would have to face subpoenas, the Times reports.
“The court finds that Pearce supporters recruited Cortes, a political neophyte, to run in the recall election to siphon Hispanic votes from Lewis to advance Pearce’s recall election bid,” wrote Superior Court Judge Edward O. Burke, though he did not take her off the ballot.
Burke wrote: “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 voters,” he said.
Pearce is facing a recall election based on a petition by the group Citizens for a Better Arizona, which objects to his co-authorizing of the state’s immigration law, his opposition to the 14th Amendment, and his flirtations with birtherism and tentherism.
Pearce repeatedly denied that he has any connection to Cortes.