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Court puts Mitchell's name back on ballot
But issue far from settled
Darin Mitchell's name will be on the general election ballot after all as a state representative candidate for Legislative District 13 after a last-minute decision by the Arizona Supreme Court.
But the issue is far from over, says Jonathan Lines, Yuma County Republican Party chairman. If Mitchell's name is on the ballot, any votes he receives may not be counted if the Supreme Court later rules that the candidate misrepresented himself. Or if Mitchell is elected to office, Lines said, he's heard there's a possibility that the Legislature won't seat him.
Lines noted that several people from Maricopa County expressed unhappiness that Mitchell didn't step down. And some members of the Legislature “are very unhappy with Mitchell. He would come into the office tainted.”
Or Mitchell could face other challenges, Lines said, such as possible criminal charges. “So the drama continues to the election and beyond.”
The issue played out Monday and Tuesday in the courts and a hastily called meeting of LD 13 precinct committeemen to fill a vacancy on the ballot, only to find out later it was all for naught.
Monday afternoon, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig ordered that Mitchell's name be removed from the ballot after hearing testimony that the candidate doesn't reside in the district he wants to represent as he claimed in his nomination paperwork.
But the next afternoon in an emergency meeting, a panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals granted Mitchell's application for a stay because Mitchell claimed insufficiency of service of process.
An attorney for rival candidate Russ Jones quickly appealed the case to the Arizona Supreme Court with a request for an emergency hearing. A Supreme Court justice declined to expedite Jones' hearing to the high court. Late Tuesday, however, the case was sent back to the appellate court to be heard by the full court.
Timing was of the essence as federal law requires that ballots be sent to service members and overseas voters by Saturday. To meet that deadline, the ballots needed to be sent to the printers Tuesday evening.
Jones had placed third in the three-way Republican race for two representatives for LD 13, a sprawling area that includes parts of both Yuma and Maricopa counties. Steve Montenegro of the Litchfield Park area received the most votes in the primary, with Mitchell coming in second.
There are no Democratic candidates for the office. However, write-in candidates have until Sept. 27 to file, said Sue Reynolds, Yuma County elections officer.
It was a day of ups and downs for Jones. He was selected by the LD 13 precinct committeemen to fill the vacant slot on the ballot, only to learn before the votes were even counted that Michell's name would be on the ballot after all and not his.
Lines, who chaired Tuesday's meeting, said that while the action doesn't count, the meeting did establish a process for what had been an unprecedented scenario in Arizona.
The meeting also brought a call for unity in the legislative district formed by the Redistricting Committee.
“We're united for the next 10 years,” said Dr. Bob Branch, who serves as chairman of LD 13 in Maricopa County.
“I'm asking you right now, let's have unity and put forward the best candidates for LD 13. We're all good people, let's form a good LD. We can work together.”