The claim, issued in a press release Oct. 26 with the headline “We Caught Them!,” stems from a dust-up between a Schweikert supporter and a man who allegedly pushed down two anti-Mitchell signs and was cited by police for doing it.
But the Oct. 23 altercation between the two men appears to be isolated and did not directly involve either campaign, according to both the Schweikert supporter who filed the police report over the incident and the man accused of damaging the signs.
The man accused of knocking down the anti-Mitchell signs, 73-year-old James Arnold Lucas of Tempe, told the Arizona Capitol Times that he has never worked or volunteered for the Mitchell campaign, nor has he ever been involved with the Arizona Democratic Party beyond being a registered Dem.
Both the Mitchell campaign and Democrats say they also have never heard of Lucas, and the Schweikert campaign also could not provide evidence that Lucas was a political operative.
Lucas said he was on a morning bike ride Oct. 23 in south Tempe when he saw what he believes were the illegally placed signs that were obstructing the view of a Mitchell sign. He also claimed that the signs did not have the required “paid for” disclosure, and he felt angry about the situation, but disputes a Tempe police report that he kicked one sign and ripped another from the ground.
When asked what he did, Lucas replied: “One of them was bent. You are asking me to admit to what may be a criminal action,” he said of the alleged bent sign.
“I wouldn’t have cared if it was a Republican or Democrat (sign). If you are attempting to stop to get someone’s message out, I am infuriated,” Lucas said. “My wife is a Republican. If anybody thinks I’m going to do something to have a major fight with my wife of 27 years, I don’t think so.”
The man who filed the police report was identified as Donald R. Sanders, who told police he has a sign company called Jet Media, which has done campaign sign work for Schweikert.
But Jet Media owner Jim Torgeson said that Sanders’ signs were not commissioned by the Schweikert campaign, and that they personally belonged to Sanders, not the company.
“That’s all Donny, all the time. This is not something that is billed to David Schweikert,” Torgeson said. “This is not a Jet Media promotion.”
Sanders said he witnessed Lucas bend over two signs that were placed by a Mitchell sign. One of them said, “Mitchell a part of the problem since 2006.” The other possibly said, “Voted for Obamacare,” Sanders said.
He said he plans to pursue prosecution of Lucas. He said his signs did not have the “paid for” disclosure because he spent only $220 on the signs, well below the $500 threshold that would have triggered disclosure under state law.
“If he thought I was wrong, then he should have called the authorities,” Sanders said. “I’m pretty offended that this guy seems to think he can step all over my First Amendment rights.”
Sanders also said he was working on his own behalf, not Jet Media’s.
Meanwhile, the Schweikert press release called the man a “Democrat activist” and went on to say that “Mitchell’s campaign team knows better,” and rehashed allegations from 2000, when Mitchell was accused, and later admitted to the Arizona Republic, of stealing an opponent’s signs.
Schweikert’s campaign manager, Oliver Schwab, defended the press release to reporter Jeremy Duda today.
“Who else would be ripping down political signs?” Schwab said. “If you are taking down signs you are clearly an activist.”
– Bill Bertolino