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Clean Elections suit dropped by GOP candidates

Rep. Cheryl Chase, R-23, and Rep. Russ Jones, R-24 (File photos)

The Arizona Republican Party and two of its legislative candidates were set to appear before a Superior Court judge on Oct. 26 in hopes of reversing a decision by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission that divided the legality – and value – of mailers sent to voters in districts 23 and 24.
But just two days before the scheduled court appearance, the suit, which was filed by Rep. Cheryl Chase and Rep. Russ Jones, who are seeking Senate seats in Districts 23 and 24, respectively, was dropped. Mr. Jones said the suit was withdrawn, in part, because there is not enough time before the Nov. 7 elections to resolve the issue.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “I still don’t agree with the decision that was made by Clean Elections.”
At issue is a state statute that permits political parties to send out slate mail, a term describing pieces that promote three or more of a party’s candidates. Under the law, slate mail is exempt from provisions that trigger the issuing of matching funds to opposing candidates.
But the mailers, which promoted Ms. Chase, and attacked Democrats Pete and Rebecca Rios, who are running for seats in the House and Senate, and a District 24 mailer that promoted Mr. Jones over opponent Senate candidate Amanda Aguirre, for casting votes the fliers claim harm border security were ruled inappropriate by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and triggered matching funds for the Democrats.
The mailers portrayed the three Republican legislative candidates in each district favorably.
A legal briefing by GOP attorney Tim Casey states that Arizona laws covering political expenditures and contributions contain no restrictions on what messages slate mail can contain once as long as three or more candidates are promoted.
In addition, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission has yet to publish guidelines or create rules on what it would consider “permissible” information on slate mailings, according to the filing.
Todd Lang, executive director of the CCEC, said though one side of the mailings was exempt under the law, matching funds were issued because they urged the defeat of candidates.
“Those aren’t promoting three or more candidates, those are attacking,” he said.
Mr. Jones said the issue will likely be before the courts eventually.
“It will have to be taken up at a later date for future elections,” he said.

Reporter Jim Small contributed to this story.

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