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Complaints force 9 from ballot

Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Democratic candidate for justice of the peace, was removed from the ballot after a judge ruled he gathered signatures on a nonpartisan petition form. Instead of the required partisan form. (File Photo)

Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Democratic candidate for justice of the peace, was removed from the ballot after a judge ruled he gathered signatures on a nonpartisan petition form. Instead of the required partisan form. (File Photo)

More than half of the candidates whose petition signatures were challenged this election cycle either were kicked off the ballot by a judge or withdrew voluntarily in the face of a likely courtroom defeat.

RELATED: Candidate challenges at-a-glance

Seventeen ballot challenges were filed against congressional, statewide and legislative candidates, including one against a veteran lawmaker who was running for justice of the peace.

Of the nine candidates now removed from the ballot, three of them lost court battles, while six dropped out before a court hearing that would have explored whether they gathered valid signatures.

Most of the cases dealt with questions of fact, such as whether the petitioners were registered voters, were from the correct district or were from the appropriate party.

But a few dealt with intriguing questions of law. One of the most prominent issues before the court was whether to allow a candidate on the ballot even though their signatures were gathered before forming a campaign committee.

This was the case with Sen. John Huppenthal, a Chandler Republican who is running for state superintendent of public instruction, and Bob Thomas, a Republican who is running for the District 15 Senate seat.

The court ultimately sided with Huppenthal and Thomas, ensuring, at least for now, that Republicans will have one of their strongest candidates for the superintendent’s race, and that Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema will not go unchallenged in District 15.

But their case is now on appeal by a law firm representing the Arizona Democratic Party.

Of the three candidates who were kicked off the ballot by a judge, two cases involved reasons that went beyond signature verifications.

Longtime Democratic lawmaker Sen. Ken Cheuvront, who was a candidate for justice of the peace in Phoenix’s Encanto district, was ruled ineligible on a technicality. The court found he collected signatures using the wrong nominating petition: Cheuvront used a form for nonpartisan candidates, rather than the required partisan form.

His lawyer told the ~Arizona Capitol Times~ on June 22 that he would not appeal the ruling. Cheuvront did not return calls seeking comment.

Finally, Republican House candidate in District 17, Augustus Shaw, was removed from the ballot after the court ruled he did not live in the district.

The Arizona Democratic Party hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance on his home, which according to the complaint and testimony, revealed he lived in nearby District 20.

Testimony from Shaw’s family members, according to the court, confirmed he was not a fulltime resident of District 17.

Shaw maintains he did live in District 17, but that his family lived in District 20. He said he deemed the arrangement best for his autistic son. The trial took a heavy toll on his family, and for that reason, Shaw said he will likely not appeal the ruling.

“I’ve always just wanted to serve,” Shaw said, adding it is unfortunate that voters in District 17 won’t get to hear his message.

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