Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce (R) led the charge to impose his state’s harsh anti-immigration law, SB-1070, prompting critics to gather enough signatures to force a recall election of the powerful Republican. Olivia Cortes, a naturalized Mexican immigrant, filed to run against Pearce on a pro-immigration platform and soon signs promoting Cortes’s candidacy appeared on street corners declaring, “Sí, Se Puede!”
But Cortes is not who she appeared to be, according to a judge. When another Republican — who opposes Pearce’s draconian law — entered the race against Pearce and went to court to challenge Cortes’ candidacy, a judge ruled that “Pearce supporters recruited Cortes” to split the Hispanic vote, the New York Times reports:
The judge, Edward O. Burke of Superior Court of Maricopa County, declined to remove her from the ballot but did say that the evidence suggested that some of her so-called supporters really supported Mr. Pearce. “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,” the judge said in his ruling.
More links to Pearce were uncovered. Greg Western, a Pearce ally who is the chairman of the East Valley Tea Party, led the effort to recruit Cortes and became her campaign adviser. Meanwhile, Pearce’s nieces helped collect signatures to get Cortes on the ballot, and one of Pearce’s brothers, who is a justice of the peace and thus prohibited from campaigning, helped them. “It remained unclear who exactly financed Ms. Cortes’s short-lived campaign, which employed a professional signature gatherer, produced untold lawn signs, created a Web site and issued occasional news releases,” the Times reports.
Under pressure and facing threats of subpoenas against Pearce’s relatives, Cortes dropped out of the race.
Unfortunately, ballots listing her name had already been prepared for the November 8 election, and there is not enough time to reprint them, though election officials will post notices at polling places saying that Cortes is no longer running. Still, her phony run may have dissuaded other candidates from entering the race. “Cortes did not respond to a telephone call, an e-mail or a knock at her door.”