The Arizona Constitution, Article 7 section 12 charges the Legislature with the duty to “maintain the purity of elections.” Arizona caselaw has held that attempting to place a “diversionary candidate” on the ballot is illegal. A “diversionary candidate” is one who is in the race solely to divert votes from a particular candidate so as to give an advantage to another candidate. The recent lawsuit to have Olivia Cortes removed from the race was filed to honor the rule of law.
The lawsuit served as a tool to remove a sham candidate. But the ethical questions the lawsuit raises are larger than simply the question of whether Cortes should be a candidate in this historic recall election. How is it that a group of anonymous people, people who are behind this sham candidacy, remain anonymous? With all the publicity about the matter, why must there be calls for investigations? All that needs to happen is for the people responsible for this stain on our State to come forward, confess their guilt and apologize to the voters. But that won’t happen.
The trial court found that she had been placed on the ballot to divert Hispanic votes and was therefore a “sham” candidate. She was not a serious candidate, but a willing pawn in a sleazy scheme. She is gone, although her name remains on the ballot. But more important questions than simply whether Cortes was a sham candidate remain
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The fact that there are secret conspiring actors who are unquestionably supporters of Russell Pearce, and that they chose to remain anonymous, tells us that they recognize that what they have done is illegal or at least embarrassing. And that should bother us. It should bother us because if a candidate and/or his campaign advisors and leading supporters can engage in skullduggery like this, they can do the same once in office. Persons who are willing to attempt to deceive voters can attempt to make backroom deals and pull special favors for their friends; they can line their pockets in exchange for promises to offer Bills and vote a certain way. People with political connections who lack integrity like this can engage in piracy and favoritism and retaliations. Concern about this is the main issue that this recent bit of political intrigue should focus on.
Who told the boss of the hired petition circulators to tell people that a signature for Cortes would help Pearce? Who set up and paid for Cortes’ Website and wrote the press releases? Who coordinated all this?
Who paid to have petitions for Cortes to be circulated? Cortes says she doesn’t know; Western, Cortes’ campaign “everything”, testified he didn’t know. Who paid for Cortes’ signs? Who else circulated petitions to gather signatures from among their friends? Who asked his family members to help with Cortes’ campaign?
Someone did – someone who knows how to run a campaign and develop a tricky strategy of getting someone on the ballot, getting some name recognition out there, and all the while remaining anonymous – someone with money and a Machiavellian mind.
And what of Russell Pearce in all of this? With his campaign people, his family and his Tea Party friends in on the scheme, what has he done to answer these questions? He has not called for answers. What has been discussed in campaign meetings where Greg Western attended, wearing two hats – Cortes’ campaign advisor and Pearce campaign committee member? What has been said at the Pearce dinner table? Here we have an illegal scheme, done to get Pearce elected, and he pretends to know nothing.
If he were a man of truth and integrity, a candidate who meant it when he told the voters he would “run a clean campaign”, he would have every one of those implicated in his office demanding that they come clean, for they have hurt his reputation.
Until the anonymous benefactors of the Pearce campaign who were involved in this illegal scheme come forward, we are left to wonder what Pearce knew.
H. Micheal Wright, was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona and attended Arizona State University where he received a degree in business administration. He then attended the University of Arizona College of Law and received his Juris Doctorate in 1975. He began practicing in Mesa with a local law firm specializing in Personal Injury Litigation and tried his first jury trial one week after admission to the Arizona Bar in 1975. In 1977 he moved back to Tucson and worked for a prominent trial lawyer, Paul G. Rees, Jr., until 1981, also specializing in Personal Injury Litigation.
Over his 35 years of practice, Mr. Wright has handled many types of cases, including cases involving product liability, medical malpractice, insurance bad faith, vehicular collisions, defective premises design and construction, defective highway design and maintenance, and many other types of cases. He developed special expertise in brain and spinal injury, accident reconstruction, hazard and risk assessment and has been invited to speak at many seminars for trial lawyers over the years. He has served as an expert witness in legal malpractice cases and as a Judge pro tempore for the Superior Court. He has been on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association since the early 1980s. He has also published several papers on issues related to Personal Injury litigation, including such subjects as: “The Intentional Act Exclusion,” Summation, March 1981; “Determining Damages Under the Seatbelt Defense,” Trial, Fall, 1993; “Recognizing Liability in Nursing Home Cases,” Advocate, Nov. 1999; “The Lawyer’s Role in Diagnosing Injuries,” Advocate, March 1993; “The Non-Party at Fault Defense,” Arizona Attorney, Jan. 1995; and “Use Reasonable Care in Referring to the Standard of Care,” Advocate, Nov. 2002. “Overcoming a Speculative New Defense in Pressure Ulcer Cases”, National Nursing Home Litigation Group newsletter, 2010; “Pressure Ulcer Claims”, a presentation at the American Ass’n for Justice National Nursing Home Litigation Group annual seminar, 2010.
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