[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
I guess we already knew that Russell Pearce -- author of SB1070 and our favorite Nazi-coddling nativist politician -- has nothing but contempt for Latino voters. Now he's demonstrating the same contempt for every voter in his Arizona legislative district.
Pearce, of course, is facing a recall election because voters in his district finally got tired of his anti-immigrant extremism -- not to mention his coarse, embarrassing corruption.
So how does Pearce go about convincing voters that now he's a trustworthy public servant? Why, by indulging in a scam that colorfully demonstrates both his base bigotry and his utter lack of ethics, of course.
It seems that Pearce's operatives -- notably, a local tea-party leader -- went out and recruited a hapless conservative Latino lady named Olivia Cortes to run a sham candidacy in the upcoming recall election -- the idea being that if enough Latinos vote for Cortes it will drain support away from his actual opponent, Jerry Lewis.
Phoenix's ABC 15 has more, including a revealing interview with Cortes herself, who demonstrates clearly on camera that she's utterly clueless, a front for the tea partiers who support Pearce ardently:
For the first time, could there be evidence Cortes is a sham candidate? It was presented in Maricopa County Superior Court during Thursday's hearing.Here's Cortes' full interview with ABC 15. As you can see, she's being coached off-camera by the tea-partying Pearce operative -- a guy named Greg Western -- who created this fraud:
An audio recording could help in the case to block the senate candidacy of Cortes.
In the recording, you hear Suzanne Dreher’s voice. She says she was paid to circulate petitions to get Olivia Cortes' name on the ballot.
A voter can be heard in the recording saying, “Oh, well, I don't think I want to sign because I support Russell Pearce.”
Dreher can reportedly be heard saying, “Well, then you want to sign.”
Under oath, she testified to a hidden agenda to get Sen. Russell Pearce re-elected.
“I was told if people were supporters of Pearce to go ahead and sign this and it would help his chances,” Dreher said in court.
“So the idea was to dilute or divert the vote?” asked Tom Ryan, the plaintiff’s attorney.
Dreher responded, “Yeah.”
Ryan asked Dreher, “Did anyone talk to you prior to you doing this advise you that by running a diversionary or sham candidate that might run afoul of Arizona election laws?
Dreher responded, “I had no idea.”
On Monday, the court ruled that Cortes can keep running, but it castigated Greg Western for playing games with the election:
In his ruling, Burke did skewer East Valley Tea Party chairman Greg Western, a Pearce supporter who has been helping Cortes with her campaign.Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched into the question of who is paying for Cortes' campaign, including the signs that are popping up all over Mesa.
"His testimony that he has no idea who designed, posted, and paid for campaign signs supporting Cortes or who paid the professional circulators is too improbable to be believed," he said. "The court finds that Pearce supporters recruited Cortes, a political neophyte, to run in the recall election to siphon Hispanic votes from Lewis to advance Pearce's recall election bid."
Burke said without the support of Pearce supporters, Cortes would have had no chance of qualifying as a candidate or running any sort of political campaign, but reiterated that the court found no wrongdoing by Cortes herself. He said the courts should not, in most cases, be the final arbiter of the motives political candidates have for running for election.
"Divining candidates' motives and acting on them is more properly the role of the voters," Burke said. "Plaintiff's remedy is through the ballot box and not the courts."
He said the fact that many petition gatherers honestly told signers that signing Cortes' petition would help Pearce makes it additionally difficult for him to find fraud.
Amusingly enough, Pearce -- who adamantly denies having anything to do with Cortes candidacy -- tried playing the race card when he was called out on this:
PEARCE: Where's Gloria Allred when you need her? You know, this Hispanic woman doesn't have a right to run? Is this a white male Mormon race only? Shame on them. Shame on them.Obviously, Pearce and his operatives think we're all stupid. Or at least, that the voters of Mesa are.