A Mesa Republican whom many believe is a sham candidate designed to divide the opposition against Russell Pearce has turned in signatures to qualify for the November special recall election targeting the Senate president.
A representative of Olivia Cortes’ campaign filed 105 petitions containing 1,177 signatures with the Secretary of State’s Office. Today was the deadline for candidates in the recall election to file nominating petitions, and Cortes joins Republican Jerry Lewis as the only candidates to do so.
The minimum number of signatures to qualify for the ballot was 621.
Opponents have until Sept. 23 to challenge the signatures if they hope to disqualify her from the ballot.
The signatures were turned in by Greg Western, a resident of LD18 and chairman of the East Valley Tea Party. Pearce has been invited to speak to the East Valley Tea Party on multiple occasions. The most recent was on Sept. 6, when he spoke about the recall. A posting on the group’s website announcing Pearce’s attendance encouraged those who came to “bring as many people as you can to show our support for Senator Pearce” during the recall.
Western denied charges that Cortes is in the race to dilute the vote and help Pearce keep his seat and said he was a friend who was trying to help. Both he and Cortes go to the same church, he said.
“She’s running to win it,” he told reporters, adding that Cortes would like to make it easier for legal immigrants to come to the United States.
Western was initially hesitant to say how he would vote in the race. When pressed, he said he would vote for Cortes.
Some of Pearce’s critics have accused Cortes of being a candidate whose only goal is to divide the opposition and help Pearce get elected.
Cortes did not return multiple messages by phone and email.
In an email to media outlets earlier, she said Randy Parraz, one of the organizers of the recall effort, should stop trying to scare her out of the race.
Meanwhile, Libertarian Michael Kielsky has decided not to pursue his candidacy and to instead throw his support behind Lewis.
“I’ve decided that it’s important that we have a candidate that, like me, stands for liberty and freedom. I believe Jerry Lewis is that candidate,” Kielsky said.