A jailed Green Party nominee who withdrew from the Corporation Commission race and then revoked his withdrawal moments later was disqualified to run for office, a judge ruled Sept. 14.
Judge Dean Fink of Maricopa County Superior Court wrote that there’s nothing in the law that allows for someone to withdraw and then place their names back on the ballot.
“Arizona law provides only two ways to have one’s name placed on the ballot: by prevailing in a party primary election or by submitting adequate signatures on nominating petitions to run as an independent candidate,” Fink wrote.
The political and legal entanglement involves Benjamin Pearcy, whose candidacy was already being challenged in court because he was one of four Mill Avenue “street people” recruited by former lawmaker Steve May for various offices as Green Party nominees.
Democrats contend the recruitment was illegal and that May – who in a strange twist, also withdrew from the Legislative District 17 House race – did it to siphon votes from Democrats.
Matt Benson, spokesman for the Secretary of State, said his office sought guidance from Maricopa County Superior Court because the situation was so unprecedented.
“Typically speaking a withdrawal is final,” Benson said. “You don’t get to withdraw and take it back.”
What made this case so unusual was the withdrawal and revocation of the withdrawal occurred almost simultaneously and with Pearcy sitting in jail, Benson said.
Benson said two people walked into the Secretary of State’s Office at 8:15 a.m. Sept. 13 to deliver Pearcy’s withdrawal paperwork.
As the staff was processing the paperwork, a signed affidavit arrived by fax two minutes later in which Pearcy stated: “I mistakenly withdrew my candidacy for the office Arizona Corporation Commissioner” under duress while incarcerated and without the “benefit of advice of counsel.”
Scottsdale police arrested Pearcy, 20, Sept. 8 and booked him on suspicion of disorderly conduct, a warrant from another jurisdiction and threatening and intimidating with injury or property damage, all misdemeanors, according to police records.
Also arrested was Cecilia Quimbaya, identified on each other’s Facebook pages as Pearcy’s girlfriend. Police accused her of refusing to provide a truthful name and failure to obey a police officer.
According to the police report, Pearcy and Quimbaya were arguing loudly in the Scottsdale Senior Center, 1700 N. Granite Reef Road, where they had stepped in to get a drink of water.
Staff asked them to leave and Pearcy called police when a staff member tried to grab him.
When police arrived, he was speaking rapidly and said he just wanted to leave because he was about to do an interview with CNN about his Green Party candidacy, according to the report.
The officer reported that Pearcy went on tangents about politics and America and Pearcy threatened the officer over the treatment of his girlfriend, who had resisted arrest.
“I’m going to charge you with a hate crime for the way you treated Cecilia because she was born in Texas and looks Mexican,” the officer wrote, quoting Pearcy.
Pearcy also claimed to the Senior Center staff that he was the nephew of Sonny Barger, a Hells Angels icon who lives in Cave Creek, and he continued the claim as police questioned him in jail. Pearcy later admitted he was lying.
Court records show that Pearcy is still in jail.
In all, there were 11 disputed candidates listed as Green Party nominees who Democrats say were recruited to siphon votes from their party in the general election. Seven of them have since dropped out on their own, including Pearcy, now that the judge ruled his withdrawal was final.
Pearcy’s name will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, however, because ballots were already sent to the printer, but votes for him won’t count.
May admitted to recruiting Pearcy and three others, but said his intent was to help friends, not hurt Democratic candidates.
Judge David Campbell of U.S. District Court on Sept. 9 allowed Pearcy and the other candidates to stay on the ballot after the Green Party sued to have them disqualified.
Democrats also filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court to disqualify the candidates and Fink ruled against them.
The Green Party argued that the candidates did not represent its views, which in turn burdened the party’s constitutional right to free association.