A Pima County judge denied a request by friends of Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, to knock GOP Senate nominee Justine Wadsack off the general election ballot on Monday.
Two of Leach’s constituents and friends, Onita and Edward Davis, filed a lawsuit against Wadsack days after she beat Leach in the Legislative District 17 primary election.
The lawsuit claimed that Wadsack should be ineligible to proceed to the general election because she does not live in Legislative District 17, but just lists her address there. Leach’s attorney Tim La Sota argued that since he received the second highest number of votes, his name should replace hers on the ballot.
Wadsack and her attorneys argued in an evidentiary hearing that lasted several hours, that she moved from her former home outside the district into a home inside the district in February and has been living there ever since.
Judge Richard Gordon – appointed by former Governor Jan Brewer – ruled against the Davises in Pima County Superior Court late on Monday evening, allowing Wadsack to stay on the ballot.
Wadsack claimed that she had to move out of her Tucson home on East Sixth Street where she lived for many years with her husband, because her extreme political views were drawing angry people to their home who harassed her, threatened her and used racial slurs.
She referred to some of the attackers as “Antifa” and said that one of them sicced his dog on her husband and bit him severely in 2020. Now, Wadsack said that she and her husband Garrett are separated, but she hopes to get back together with him eventually. “Either stop running for office and stay home, or leave,” she recalled him saying.
Garrett testified that he does intend to reunite with his wife.
La Sota argued that Wadsack only listed a change of address so she could run in an easier district but noted that she signed onto circulation forms in March listing her old address on seven occasions. Wadsack’s children also listed the Sixth Street home as their address, but she said they don’t live there. The house is owned by the Wadsack Trust and Wadsack is listed as a trustee, but she said that doesn’t technically make her an owner. Finally, Wadsack is listed as a precinct committeeperson outside of her district, but she said that’s a mistake.
Wadsack’s attorneys noted that if Leach had concerns about her residency, he could have filed them months ago, but he waited until he lost his election to act. In the hearing, Wadsack deflected to several topics, criticizing the Secretary of State’s office, crying, discussing her past relationships and going on tangents about her family.
Wadsack’s new address is a house on Oakbrook Street, also in Tucson. That home is owned by a woman named Rosa Alfonso who said that Wadsack is renting a room from her and paying $250 a month in rent for it. She also testified that she often sees Wadsack around the house and that she keeps things there.
Wadsack said that at her new address she hasn’t been getting the same threats and attacks that drove her away from the other house because she parks in the garage and is trying “not to bring harm to Rosa.”
Residency challenges in Arizona have a very low success rate. La Sota brought a case against former lawmaker Don Shooter on a similar claim and failed. He was also prepared to defend Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, in case her primary opponent Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, filed a residency suit against her. Townsend attempted to subpoena Rogers at the house she lists as her residence in Flagstaff, but said her attorneys were only able to find Rogers at a residence in Tempe outside their district. Townsend lost to Rogers but decided not to spend the money on a lawsuit.
Apart from Wadsack’s suit; there are no other residency lawsuits filed against legislators this year.
La Sota confirmed on Tuesday that he will not appeal the judge’s ruling.