Candidate Olivia Cortes on Thursday withdrew from the Legislative District 18 recall election of Senate President Russell Pearce amid ongoing allegations that her campaign was a sham set up by Pearce supporters to pull votes away from opponent Jerry Lewis.
Pearce will now face only fellow Republican Lewis in the first recall election of a sitting legislator in state history.
Cortes said in a statement that the “constant intimidation and harassment” led to her withdrawal. And her attorney said that the move was the condition of a deal to stop a court hearing scheduled for today.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke had agreed to hear additional testimony in a lawsuit challenging Cortes’ candidacy, despite ruling earlier this week that she could remain on the ballot. Burke ruled that Pearce supporters put Cortes on the ballot, but he found no fault with Cortes herself.
A Lewis campaign spokesman said Cortes’ decision further proves her sham candidacy but said the damage already has been done.
“From the Cortes/Pearce camp, it’s mission accomplished. Their goal was to have the ballot printed with other names on it to confuse people, and that’s been done,” Lewis co-chairman John Giles said. “Voters are sometimes surprisingly uninformed, especially people who are voting absentee.”
The ballots already have been printed, and Cortes’ name will remain on the ballot. Signs will be posted at the district’s 16 polling places to notify voters that she is no longer a candidate.
“It’ll be disappointing to see how many people still vote for Cortes,” Giles said. “She will continue to have an impact on this election.”