Rep. Steve Montengro is standing by his running mate.
The House Speaker Pro Tem says he has no reason to believe Darin Mitchell lives outside Legislative District 13, despite overwhelming evidence and Mitchell’s own admission that he doesn’t live in the district he seeks to represent.
Montenegro told the Arizona Capitol Times on Wednesday night that Mitchell personally told him he moved into LD13, and that he still believes that’s the truth.
“I take him at his word,” Montenegro said. “That’s what he told me in a one-on-one conversation when we started running, he signed an affidavit (saying he lives there) and he’s a guy that, I take him at his word.”
Montenegro said he didn’t want to cast judgment without knowing all the facts of the case, and he wouldn’t say what he would do if Mitchell was tossed from the ballot.
When pressed whether he thought lying about residency would be acceptable, he responded in an email to the Arizona Capitol Times on Thursday: “For the record, I do think that it is wrong for a person to say that they moved into a district and then not move. I believe that a candidate must comply with all statutory and constitutional requirements.”
Despite traveling together to campaign events, producing joint mail pieces and appearing together on campaign signs, Montenegro said that he had never been to either of Mitchell’s houses.
“I have not (been to either house), but, again, I take him at his word. He told me he lives there, I’ll take him at his word,” Montenegro said.
Rep. Russ Jones, who was defeated in the LD13 Republican primary on Aug. 28, literally laughed at the idea that Montenegro didn’t know Mitchell was living outside the district.
“He really vetted him good, huh?” he said. “I don’t really think that’s very likely. They traveled together fairly extensively to various events in Yuma. (Mitchell) traveled with his girlfriend and Montenegro traveled with his family, and they had to all meet up somewhere. So I find that a little hard to believe.”
Mitchell admitted to the Capitol Times on Tuesday that he was living at his girlfriend’s house in the neighboring Democratic Legislative District 22, where he has lived since at least 2007. He said he has also stayed within the district, at a vacant house that is under construction and owned by his campaign manager, Theresa Koontz.
Several neighbors said the house has been empty for at least the past year, and a contractor working on the house confirmed it was vacant. Mitchell filed several signed and notarized pieces of paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office that state he lives at the address outside the district, including his Clean Elections application for public financing, which was filed on July 2.