Jones eyes options against Mitchell
Yuma veteran lawmaker Russ Jones vows to press on with his challenge against Darin Mitchell, his opponent for the newly formed Legislative District 13, who Jones asserts should be ineligible for office because he doesn't reside in the district he seeks to represent.
“There's still some legal options we can pursue,” Jones said Monday. “We will carry forward.”
It's not about Jones being returned to the Legislature, where he had served as a representative for Yuma County. He acknowledged that's not likely to happen, at least for the term that starts in January.
However, he said, “It's the right thing to do.”
“Unequivocally, Mitchell is not qualified so I will continue to pursue that,” Jones said.
Jones placed third in a three-way Republican race in the primary election for two seats in the Arizona House of Representatives for LD 13, which covers a wide swathe of both Yuma and Maricopa counties.
The election results put Steve Montenegro and Mitchell on the ballot for the two seats in the Nov. 6 general election. There are no Democratic candidates for the offices.
In the meantime, Jones learned that the house where Mitchell said he lives in Litchfield Park has been vacant for over a year. Jones filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court claiming that Mitchell should therefore be declared ineligible for the office he sought. The judge ruled that Mitchell's name be removed from the general election ballot, but a panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last week that Mitchell was improperly served with paperwork and declared him a legitimate candidate for the office.
The ruling also meant Jones could not be a legitimate write-in candidate because of the “sore losers law” that bans losing primary election candidates from mounting a write-in candidacy for the same position in the general election.
According to the Secretary of State's office, any votes Jones receives will not be counted.
Among the options Jones and his attorney, Thomas Ryan, are considering is a legal challenge to that statute.
“The law does appear to be discriminatory,” Jones said. “I believe the statute could be challenged and should be.”
Ryan said that with the appellate court's ruling, there's no basis to take his client's lawsuit to the Arizona Supreme Court. But he is considering various other options.
One is filing a post-election contest known as quo warranto that is used to challenge a person's right to hold a public office.
Another option is to file a complaint with the state House Credentialing Committee, even though House Speaker Andy Tobin has said that without any allegations of criminal behavior, he doesn't believe the committee would prevent Mitchell from taking the seat.
That may not stop Ryan, who said the committee needs to be responsive to the citizens of LD 13 who would be without representation if Mitchell is seated.
One option Ryan definitely plans to pursue is filing a complaint with the Clean Elections Committee for clean election law violations.
Yet another possibility is a recall, Ryan said. “Mitchell would be a prime candidate for recall.”
That's all given that Mitchell is elected, Ryan said, noting that there are four write-in candidates. “If one of them gets elected, that changes things.”
The write-in candidates for LD 13, all Republicans, are John Minore of Yuma, Clair “Van” Steenwyk of Buckeye, Cheryl Brown of Litchfield Park and Robert Garcia of Goodyear.
And then, Jones observed philosophically, there's always the next election.