Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Rs' LD13 primary mess: Unleash the lawyers!

On Tuesday, the Arizona Capitol Times broke the story that Darin Mitchell, one of the winners of the LD13 Republican primary for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, apparently doesn't live in that district.

Note: the link is to my post about the story; the Cap Times' story is now behind a subscriber paywall.

The incumbent legislator that Mitchell ousted, Russ Jones, took a few days to mull his options, ultimately deciding to file a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court (link courtesy KPNX-TV).

In the lawsuit, Jones asks the court to enjoin (aka - forbid) the AZ Secretary of State and the county recorders in Maricopa and Yuma counties (LD19 spans parts of both counties) from placing Mitchell's name on the general election ballot.

He also asks for court costs and attorney fees, but does *not* specifically ask the court to place his name on the ballot in Mitchell's stead.

I'm not a lawyer, so take this with a big grain of salt (meaning that I could be way off here), but I don't think this is going to go far.

1.  There is a 10-day period after the deadline for filing candidate petitions in June when candidates (and non-candidates) can challenge the ballot eligibility of other candidates.  Fisher availed himself of that time to challenge the petitions of another candidate, successfully forcing that candidate out of the race; Jones did not challenge Mitchell's residency at that time.  I'm guessing that the Court will be loathe to give Jones a second opportunity at this late date, particularly in order to overturn the results of an election.

2.  There are a couple of typos in the legal filing.  It refers to Mitchell as "Shaw" a couple of times -

From page 4 of the linked .pdf
There was another instance of this on page 5 of the filing.

The typos alone might not be enough for the Court to dismiss the filing (I think "intent" is obvious here, and I think that the filers clearly intended to name "Mitchell", not some mysterious "Shaw", but I really don't know), but if the Court is looking for a way to not get involved in this mess, the typos could give it a technical, rather than substantive (and hence, easily reversible), excuse to dismiss.

3.  Neither I, nor anyone I talked to about this, is aware of any Arizona case law that is on point about this (to be fair, neither I nor the people I spoke to are attorneys, so there may be an obscure case that we missed), so if the Court does take any position on this, they'll be setting precedent.

Depending on the latitude that the Court has (and this was something I really would have preferred to ask an attorney about), they could split hairs, saying that it is too late to knock Fisher off of the ballot, but because of the residency issue it could determine that Fisher is ineligible to serve in the lege until he meets the residency requirement.

In addition, if Fisher is actually kicked off of the general election ballot, it creates a real mess because that would only leave one ballot candidate for the two House seats that are up for election - incumbent Steve Montenegro (R).  No Democrats, Independents, or other party candidates are on the general election ballot.  That means that the 2nd seat would go to whichever candidate runs the best write-in campaign.

If that happens, and a credible Democrat in LD13 wants to step up, call me.  I'll volunteer for your campaign.  I'm pretty sure that the MCDP has my number, or you can email me or reach out on Facebook.

Having said all that, I love this stuff, and not just in a "better them than us" sort of way (though I freely admit that I'm glad this is happening with the Rs and not the Ds).

This stuff is fascinating, in a "nuts and bolts" of politics way.

Yes, I'm a political geek, and yes, I'm proud of it.

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