After winning a three-way Republican primary for two House seats in the heavily Republican Legislative District 13 on Aug. 28, the road to the Arizona House of Representatives was wide open for political newcomer Darin Mitchell.
Because he faces no opposition from Democrats in the general election, the seat appeared to be as good as his.
But on Friday afternoon, Rep. Russ Jones, through his attorney Tom Ryan, filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court asking to keep Mitchell from the general election ballot because he lives outside the district, which stretches from the western edges of Phoenix to Yuma.
The complaint asks that the court reach a decision before 5 p.m. Friday to ensure the matter is settled before the state’s general election ballots start to be printed.
The complaint comes after the Arizona Capitol Times published an article showing Mitchell doesn’t live where he claims – in the vacant home in LD13 that is owned by his campaign chair – and lives with his fiancé at the same address he has called home for several years – in the neighboring, heavily Democratic LD19.
The complaint also draws on several pieces of signed paperwork Mitchell filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office to receive Clean Elections funds in which he listed the address outside the district as recently as August 6.
Defendants in addition to Mitchell are Secretary of State Ken Bennett, members of the Yuma and Maricopa County boards of supervisors and the county recorder for each county. The district includes both Maricopa and Yuma counties.
Mitchell told the Capitol Times that he lives with his fiancé outside the district, and also stays at the vacant home within the district – but he didn’t what percent of his time was spent inside the district.
“The point is, I do live with my girlfriend (outside the district),” he said in a telephone interview last week. “I did move here in the house that is currently under construction, and I don’t keep track of when I do, or when I do not, stay here.”
He later released a statement saying that he spends a “good percentage” of his time at the home in the district, despite several neighbors’ insistence that the house has been empty for more than a year and a statement from a contractor working on the property who confirmed it was vacant.
The statement said his verbal agreement with his campaign chair, Theresa Koontz, to let him to live there in exchange for his services managing their remodel project, allowed him to “test-drive” the district while running for office there.
Koontz and her husband also released a statement last week that said although they didn’t have a written agreement with Mitchell, they had a handshake deal that he could stay there while managing the remodel.
Ryan, who was the lead attorney in the case against “sham candidate” Olivia Cortes in the 2011 recall election of former Senate President Russell Pearce, said the statements support his case.
“Between the two of these (statements) it’s clear that he was not a resident of the house,” he said. “He may be a resident in the future, but even then, it’s too late.”