Jones pursuing unofficial bid for office
Yuman Russ Jones said it's his understanding he can move forward with his write-in candidacy to represent Legislative District 13 in the Arizona House of Representatives.
He said he can tell people he intends to be a write-in candidate, raise campaign funds and post political signs. He also is developing a mailer explaining how people can write in his name when they vote.
But he can't actually tell people he's on the ballot as a write-in candidate, at least for now, cautioned Matthew Roberts, spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.
That's because it will be up to the courts to say whether Jones actually is an official write-in candidate, Roberts said.
“His issue is with the courts, not the secretary of state, although he did do the right thing reaching out to our office,” Roberts said.
Hanging in the balance is Jones' lawsuit now before the Arizona Court of Appeals in which he alleges that his opponent, Darin Mitchell, should be declared ineligible for the office because Mitchell currently doesn't live within LD 13.
Attorneys for Jones and Mitchell presented briefs last week. The court is scheduled to hear the case Friday and make a decision in late October.
That has Jones facing an extremely tight time frame as the general election is Nov. 6 and thousands of early ballots have already been mailed out.
“Sixty to 70 percent of the votes are by early ballot,” Jones said. “If I wait until the court rules, I'll be toast.”
Jones, an incumbent lawmaker for Yuma County, placed third in a three-way Republican race in the primary election for two seats in the house for LD 13. That meant Mitchell, who placed second, and top vote-getter Steve Montenegro proceeded to the general election. There are no Democratic candidates for the two offices.
However, Jones is hopeful the court will rule that Mitchell is ineligible for the office and that any votes he receives in the general election would not count. But the court also has to rule whether to allow Jones to be a write-in candidate despite a state law known as the “sore loser law” that prohibits candidates who lose in the primary from running as a write-in candidate in the general election.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Capitol Times reported that in their brief filed last week, Mitchell's attorneys cited Arizona Supreme Court precedent and legislative history as the basis for their claims that Jones' primary election challenge is moot and, further, that state law doesn't even allow for the courts to intervene in legislative races.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times article, the final arguments listed in Mitchell's appeal are that the original primary election contest is now moot, and that Jones must file a new general election challenge because the ballots have already been printed and mailed with Mitchell's name on them.
Mitchell's attorney, Timothy La Sota, further contends that a lower court judge erred by ruling Mitchell had to live in the district from the time he filed his nominating petitions on May 30 through the primary Aug. 28. La Sota argued that the deadline to live in the district is Election Day for the election being challenged.
Taken together, the two arguments would essentially reset the clock, allowing Mitchell to move into the district anytime before the general election.
Jones' attorney, Thomas Ryan, argued that a Maricopa County Superior Court judge did not abuse his discretion in finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mitchell lived outside the district, Arizona Capitol Times reported. And Arizona law is clear that appellate courts defer to the trial court regarding factual findings, unless there is evidence that the lower court judge abused his discretion in making his decision, Ryan further argued.
“Mr. La Sota fundamentally misunderstands election law,” Ryan was quoted by the Arizona Capitol Times. “Because if you look at (the law), right now (Mitchell) is disqualified. His name is on the ballot, but it's the functional equivalent of being dead. That's why he's the appellate, he lost, he's appealing.”
Hank Stephenson, reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, contributed to this report.