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County GOP officials rally to get Pearce ‘opponent’ on ballot

Senate President Russell Pearce and one of his recall opponents, Olivia Cortes (File photos)

An executive officer of the Maricopa County Republican Party and longtime supporter of Senate President Russell Pearce said she was part of a coordinated effort to help a woman she’s never met qualify as a candidate for the Nov. 8 special recall election against Pearce.

But Patricia Oldroyd, the secretary for the Maricopa County GOP, refused to say who organized Pearce supporters to collect signatures for Olivia Cortes.

“You’re wondering who asked me to do it? That’s my business. I’m not going to discuss that,” she told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Another elected member of the Maricopa County Republican Party’s Executive Guidance Committee, Dan Grimm, also collected signatures for Cortes even though he knows almost nothing about her. Although he has held elected positions in the Republican Party for several years, Grimm said he volunteered for Cortes because she’s “an independent voice.”

“She doesn’t represent any party,” he said.

By contrast, Grimm said that both Pearce and Jerry Lewis, who is viewed as the primary challenger for the Senate seat, are “stalwarts for their parties.” Both are Republicans, but Grimm said Lewis was “a put-up sham” candidate being supported by Pearce’s liberal opponents.

Cortes is also a Republican.

Both Grimm and Oldroyd live in neighboring LD19 and cannot vote in the LD18 recall election.

Oldroyd wouldn’t say why she and others were asked to help Cortes qualify for the ballot, though she criticized recall organizers as being “out of state people (funded by) out of state money.” Pearce’s opponents have alleged she was recruited to run in order to split the anti-Pearce vote, particularly among Hispanics.

“I don’t have to discuss that,” Oldroyd said when asked if she gathered signatures in order to help Pearce fend off a challenge from Lewis, a charter school administrator.

But Grimm said he is aware that Cortes’ presence on the ballot may be a “scam” to protect Pearce.

“If that did happen, I’m not really sure I would shed a tear,” he said. “I’ve not had a problem with Russell Pearce, but if he’s going to go down, I don’t want it to be a choice of one (opponent).”

Oldroyd praised Cortes, who was born in Mexico and is a naturalized United States citizen, as “the kind of legal immigrant that America needs” because she followed immigration protocols and graduated from college. However, she conceded that she has never met Cortes.

“I think that, probably, she’s a good woman,” Oldroyd said.

Likewise, Grimm said he didn’t know Cortes well.

“I think I met her at one of the gatherings, but I honestly don’t remember. If I did, I shook her hand and that was about it,” he said.

Oldroyd is one of at least nine people who have endorsed Pearce in previous elections who gathered nominating petition signatures for Cortes earlier this month. Other Pearce supporters who circulated petitions for his challenger include former state Rep. Barbara Blewster and Franklin Bruce Ross, the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the validity of the recall.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on that lawsuit today or tomorrow.

In May, the county party’s executive committee unanimously approved a resolution opposing the recall. In it, the group pledged to “support and defend” Pearce against the recall.

But Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman Rob Haney said he didn’t see any problem with two members of the party’s executive committee helping a candidate running against Pearce.

“They’re free to support who they want to. Since (all three candidates) are Republicans, there’s nothing the (party) bylaws against that,” he said.

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