Olivia Cortes’ political machinery is largely unknown.
Yet the Mesa Republican turned in nearly 1,200 signatures on Sept. 9 — about double the requirement needed to qualify for the special recall election slated for Nov. 8.
Critics of Senate President Russell Pearce have labeled Cortes as a “stealth” candidate whose ultimate aim is to divide the opposition and help the incumbent keep his legislative seat.
This month, media reports quoted a circulator Cortes supposedly hired as admitting that she is running to dilute the vote against Pearce.
Even before the charge was explicitly made, Cortes denied in an early interview with the Arizona Capitol Times that the Pearce camp had asked her to run.
She said a “friend” asked her to run. She didn’t identify this friend, and insisted she made the decision by her own volition.
For weeks, Cortes has not returned repeated phone calls or emails seeking comment about her candidacy.
The Mesa Republican has been almost invisible. On Friday, she allowed a Tea Party activist to turn in her nominating petitions instead of taking the opportunity to meet with reporters, expand on her platform and get her name out.
Here is an edited transcript of her July 26 interview.
If you just can tell me a little bit more about yourself, I’d appreciate it.
Okay. I like to run because the district Hispanic voters deserve a choice. The district is changing, so why shouldn’t the make up of the candidates? And, so what else do you want me to tell you about myself?
Yeah, just tell me about where you work right now and basically, a little bit of…
… History? My background?
I immigrated in 1971, and I worked for Motorola for 24 years and in the semi-conductor industry. Right now, personally, I’m unemployed. I’m a caregiver. Let me put it that way. My brother suffered a brain aneurysm so I’m taking care of him.
So, right now, you’re not working?
No, I’m not working. And I decided to run. I was, you know, decided to (be) recruited because a friend of mine asked me to run and just because the love that I have for Arizona.
You said you immigrated to Arizona in 1971. Where from?
Were you naturalized?
When was it?
Oh, my gosh! It’s been a long time. Oh, it was maybe like in the middle of 1975.
You mentioned that a friend had asked you to run?
A friend asked me, ‘Why don’t you run?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’
So, I guess, what convinced you to run?
Because before all those years that I was working I was so focused on my work, and now I have more spare time to watch the news and see what’s going on.
Got it, and what is it about the news that prompted you to go ahead and join this race?
Well, it’s the representation of people — the incumbents…
What about them?
Well, I can’t tell you right now because I need to collect my signatures so that’s all I’m going to say.
Just a couple more questions, if you don’t mind. Earlier you mentioned that the district is changing so why shouldn’t the make-up the candidates — and by that you mean that Mesa is gaining more Hispanic voters than ever? Is that what you what meant by it?
Yeah, that’s what I meant by it. There’s more Hispanics and I want to be able to… (I just think they) deserve a choice.
And, ma’am, you’re a Republican, right?
Well, I am a registered Republican but I vote whatever, you know. I don’t go straight Republican.
Nobody from the Pearce camp recruited you to go ahead and run?
No, I’m running for pro-Olivia Cortes.
And you’ve been in Mesa for how long, ma’am?
Since I immigrated — since 1971.
So, you really have seen the changes in Mesa, then?
Yes, Mesa was a lovely little quiet town, and now it has changed so much.
And do you think you could get the Hispanic vote to… go ahead and support you? Is that what your plan is?
Well, I’m hoping.