A judge said today that he won’t decide until early next week whether a Democratic legislative candidate should be removed from the ballot after an opponent challenged her candidacy, saying she wasn’t running under her real name.
Democratic activist Bahney Dedolph filed a challenge against Jean Cheuvront-McDermott, a candidate for the state House of Representatives in Legislative District 24, alleging that the signatures she had filed were invalid because the petitions listed her name as Cheuvront-McDermott.
Bahney’s attorney, Andrew Gordon, argued her real name is Lois Jean McDermott, as exhibited by her voter registration and other political documents.
“What makes this case particularly compelling on this point is that she has run for office (precinct committeewoman) at least four times as Jean McDermott,” Gordon argued today in Maricopa County Superior Court. “It is only this time, as she is running as a team with her son, that she uses the name Cheuvront-McDermott.”
Her son, Ken Cheuvront, is running for a seat in the state Senate in the same district. He previously served in the Legislature from 1995 to 2010.
During her testimony, Cheuvront-McDermott offered a number of anecdotes to demonstrate that many people in the district only knew her as Jean Cheuvront. When she went out to social events, she said that she would sometimes initially introduce herself as McDermott, but have to add that she was also known by the Cheuvront name, or else they wouldn’t recognize who she was.
“If I had to have a plumber, I had to call him as Jean Cheuvront, because that’s how all the construction people know me,” she said.
Even when encountering people she had known before, she said about three-fourths of the time she had to introduce herself using the Cheuvront name in order for them to remember her.
Kory Langhofer , her attorney, also argued that a legislative district was much larger than a precinct, so the use of the Cheuvront name was more important for recognition than it was when she was running for precinct committeewoman. Furthermore, he argued that just because she had used McDermott does not mean she disavowed the Cheuvront name.
Judge Arthur Anderson seemed skeptical of Gordon’s argument, pointing out that the statute does allow for nicknames, presumably to give a candidate the ability to use a name by which they are better known.
Gordon argued that she was only using the Cheuvront name to capitalize on her son’s name recognition.
But Anderson suggested the motivation didn’t matter.
“While there may be political overtones there, it also clues in the population who knows her as Cheuvront,” Anderson said. “So, what’s wrong with that?”
Langhofer argued that Cheuvront-McDermott had used the Cheuvront name during the years that she was a school teacher in the Creighton district, worked for Good Samaritan hospital, and worked as a real estate agent.
She became McDermott when she remarried in 1989, but her husband had a stroke several years later. She spent the next nine years caring for him, until he died in 2002.
During that time, she said, she rarely left the house for any social activity and was not active in the community. She found that no one recognized who she was when she tried to go by McDermott, and resumed using Cheuvront instead.
Langhofer argued that the challenge was merely an attempt by House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, one of her Democratic opponents in the LD24 House race, to get her thrown off the ballot on a technicality.
“In this case, there is absolutely no evidence that if she goes by this name, no one will know who she is,” he argued. “It is not misleading to say that she is associated with her son.”
Gordon disagreed, saying that since she had not used the Cheuvront-McDermott name legally before, it was misleading and should not be legally permitted.