Recall candidate Olivia Cortes took the stand Thursday to defend herself against allegations that she is a sham candidate running to draw votes away from candidate Jerry Lewis and help Senate President Russell Pearce retain his seat. “I wanted to offer my points of view as a naturalized citizen, a concerned citizen for the future of Arizona,” Cortes said. “I want to serve my community.” She said the accusations about her campaign make her feel “bad.”
“I feel they are taking away my constitutional right,” she said. “Anybody can run. I’m running to win. I want to win.”
During her testimony, Cortes said she is paying for her campaign but admitted she hasn’t yet spent any money. She said she does not know who paid professional circulators to collect the signatures to get her on the ballot. She said she also does not know who paid for the signs with her name on it that were put up around West Mesa. She doesn’t know who created her Web site. Cortes said she was not forced or paid to run. She said East Valley Tea Party leader Greg Western is the only one helping her with her campaign and as a political novice, she has left many decisions to him.
Western is scheduled to take the stand later in the day. Legislative District 18 Republican Mary Lou Boettcher filed the lawsuit. Cortes for weeks has evaded attempts by the voters and the media to speak with her about her stance on issues.
… Cortes’ attorney, Anthony Tsontakis, called the lawsuit “politically motivated.” “Olivia Cortes is before you because her presence on the ballot constitutes a political threat to Jerry Lewis,” Tsontakis told Judge Edward Burke.
He said the legal issues in this lawsuit are ones that should come after an election is held, not before. “My client has not put her name on the ballot with the intent of misleading, confusing or deceiving voters,” he said, adding that if voters think there is an issue, they can inform themselves and then vote accordingly.
Boettcher’s attorney Tom Ryan argued that it would be too late after the election. And he said this case is unique because Cortes likely won’t be the one coming out of this race the winner.
“How do you bring an election charge against (Russell Pearce) when he says he did nothing here?” he asked.
Ryan’s case, and the questions he asked witnesses on Thursday, focuses on the allegation that Pearce supporters helped Cortes get on the ballot.
Burke essentially has two decisions to make in this case: Is Cortes’ campaign violating the Arizona Constitution and running a fraudulent campaign? And given ballots already have been sent out to overseas and military voters, is there anything he can do about it now? Ryan is asking Burke to require the county to print new ballots, send them to overseas voters and extend the time those voters have to return them.