Friday, June 05, 2009

Dear Republican Activists And Primary Voters:

Hi. Your snarky (but oh-so-friendly and helpful) neighborhood liberal blogger and Democratic activist here. I don't normally write for you folks, but this one is for you.

Some of you have signed nominating petitions for one John Huppenthal for next year's race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Under normal circumstances, a voter can sign the petitions of only one candidate per office. As such, normally you wouldn't be allowed to sign nominating petitions for Margaret Dugan, Mary Lou Taylor, or Gary Nine, the declared candidates for the Republican nomination next year. (State Rep. Rich Crandall is rumored to be interested in the race as well, but has not formally announced his candidacy.)

Under the laws of Arizona and the rules from the Arizona Secretary of State, a candidate must form a committee (file paperwork with the state formally declaring the candidate's interest in a particular office).

From the Secretary of State's candidate handbook (page 29 of the .pdf) (emphasis mine) -
4. Statement of Organization OR $500 Threshold Exemption Statement.
A Statement of Organization registering the candidate’s campaign committee OR a $500 Threshold Exemption Statement must be filed before making any expenditures, accepting any contributions, distributing any campaign literature or circulating any petitions. If the candidate has an exploratory committee open at the time of filing, then the candidate, chairman and treasurer must file an amended Statement of Organization to change the committee to a candidate’s campaign committee.

So far, Huppenthal has only formed an "exploratory" committee - filer ID 201000065, formed and last amended on March 16, 2009. As such, any signatures he has collected to date are invalid.

While there is some discussion going around about whether or not Huppenthal's signature collecting activities mean that he is now an active candidate under Arizona's "resign-to-run" laws and must now resign his seat in the legislature, this much is clear -

Whether or not he actually has to resign from office immediately, he will have to redo his petitions completely. All he's accomplished so far is to put together a list of folks to hit up for donations...once he gets around to forming an actual candidate campaign committee.

So take heart, loyal Republicans. If this dust-up, or perhaps the court hearing for his assault case later this month, causes you to feel a little "buyer's remorse," you have the option of rebuffing Huppenthal when he comes calling again and signing the nominating petitions for another candidate whose deportment and professionalism is more to your liking.

Just trying to help,

Craig at Random Musings



Unknown said...

Craig - Your legal analysis is flawed. You are ignoring the second sentence in the paragraph. The rule allows an exception for exploratory committees: “If the candidate has an exploratory committee open at the time of filing, then the candidate, chairman and treasurer must file an amended Statement of Organization to change the committee to a candidate’s campaign committee.”

Huppenthal has a valid exploratory committee, and thus is exempt from the rules limiting expenditures above $500, prohibiting the acceptance of contributions, circulating petitions, etc.

It is common for exploratory committees to circulate information literature, raise funds and circulate petitions BEFORE registering the candidates’ campaign committee with the Secretary of State’s office.

Under your reading of the rule, no exploratory committee could ever distribute literature, raise funds, etc. Obviously that is not true, or there would be no point to exploratory committees.

Craig said...

Freedom - You might have a point, except that Huppenthal hasn't amended his exploratory committee.

Also, every former (and future!) candidate that I have spoken with on this has been told by the Secretary of State's Elections Division (or County Elections Department, as appropriate for their candidacy) that to collect sigs, they must have a "candidate campaign committee."

You could still be correct, but that would mean that election rules are applied to Democrats (and non-Republicans) differently than they're applied to Republican candidates.

If so, that would be a bigger scandal than one candidate jumping the gun to try to get a head start on other candidates in his primary.

Craig said...

Oh BTW - I tried asking the SOS's Elections department for a clarification, and the woman on the phone just told me to read the law. (ARS Title 16, Chapter 3)

That didn't do anything to clear up the confusion; the vagueness of the law on this topic is why I called in the first place.