Barry Hess, the perennial Libertarian candidate for governor, fought successfully against legislation that would have required third-party candidates to collect thousands of signatures to get on the ballot. Now a challenge filed by a Republican activist alleges that he fell short of the 133 signatures he needs to run for governor.
Kevin McNeill, a political consultant and former Arizona Republican Party official, filed a court challenge alleging that 36 of the signatures Hess filed with the Secretary of State’s Office are invalid. That would leave him five signatures shy of the 133 he needs to qualify for the ballot.
According to the suit filed by Eric Spencer, McNeill’s attorney, at least 13 of Hess’ signatures came from people who are not registered Libertarians or independents, “nearly 10” of the signers aren’t registered voters; nine signatures are duplicates from people who had already signed other petitions, and several others should be rejected for other reasons.
Hess said he’s confident that his signatures are valid. He criticized Republicans for trying to prevent voters from having choices at the polls.
“Winning by exclusion seems to be the only way they think they can win,” Hess said. “That’s what the whole goal is. It’s funny how the Republicans are so insecure with their own philosophy and what they bring to the table that they are afraid to face a challenge.”
The challenge will be heard in Maricopa County Superior Court on June 19.
If the challenge is successful, it will bar Hess from making his fourth consecutive run for governor. But Hess only needs to salvage five of the 36 challenged signatures in order to make it onto the ballot.
Hess and the Arizona Libertarian Party joined a 2013 citizen referendum effort to refer election law bill HB2305 to the ballot. One provision of the bill would have dramatically raised the number of signatures third-party candidates need to get on the ballot, increasing the requirement on Libertarians from dozens to thousands. The Legislature repealed the bill in 2014 rather than have it go to the ballot.
During a legislative debate over the bill, some Republican lawmakers lamented that Libertarians had cost the party some tough races. Hess boasted during the referendum effort that GOP Congressman Matt Salmon blamed him for costing him the 2002 gubernatorial race.
“From my perspective, Matt Salmon cost me the race,” Hess quipped about the 2002 election, in which Salmon got 554,465 votes to Hess’ 20,356. Democrat Janet Napolitano defeated Salmon by just 11,819 votes.