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Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Robert Gordon may have gotten more than he bargained for when he demanded a recount of the number of petition signatures he dropped off last week.

Gordon, a Democrat, sent a letter last week to the Secretary of State Michele Reagan saying the final tally was significantly below what he believes he turned in.

In a letter to Eric Spencer, the state’s election director, Gordon alleged 209 original petition sheets containing 1,218 signatures went missing when staff took his petitions from the lobby of the Secretary of State’s Office and brought them behind a closed, locked door.

“You personally, in multiple trips from the anteroom to the area behind a closed and locked door, took separate stacks of our petitions out of our sight and presence. By the time that we were brought back to the room where petitions were processed your staff had tallied a count significantly below our cross-checked tally,” Gordon said. “The originals of these petitions were lost by you either deliberately or negligently.”

Spencer responded, noting that when Gordon dropped off the signed petitions, he was unwilling to give a final estimate of the signatures filed, the only candidate to do so in this election cycle. From there, Spencer noted he personally delivered the petitions to an assigned staffer, and no one else was in a position to remove the sheets without his staffer’s knowledge.

When Gordon objected to the number of signatures found in the count, Spencer said he directed staff to do a recount and, later, to search the entire office. The second count reduced the number of signatures Gordon collected from 5,927 to 5,924.

To qualify for the ballot, Gordon needs 5,801 signatures under state law.

Mark Leeper, the Gordon campaign manager, said Spencer crossed a line in his response last week.

He rejects his Spencer's conclusions, saying they should be a partisan attack against his boss' political rival.

But Gordon’s objection led to a thorough examination of his signatures, including the realization that the reverse side of 209 out of 218 petition copies lacked proper affidavits from the circulator, casting doubt on their validity.

And when Gordon resubmitted petition copies on June 1 that were duplicates from the May 30 filing, the removed signature sheets had been crossed out.

“Thus not only are you seeking to file the same petition twice, but you are also now asking the Secretary to tabulate signatures you originally considered invalid. This arguably constitutes fraud by your campaign, but at a minimum, it demonstrates that your June 1st petition copies were not accurate reflections of the original petitions,” he wrote.

Spencer said an amended count brought the figure down to 5,811 signatures. And while Spencer noted Gordon met the bare minimum to qualify for the ballot, he said that at least 105 signatures as part of his investigation were determined to be duplicated.

“In 3 cases the same person signed your petition sheets 3 times, and in another case, the same person signed petition sheets you personally circulated in two counties on the same days,” he wrote. “A court will almost certainly invalidate these 105 petition signatures, bringing you below the required minimum number of signatures for statewide office.”

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197.

Reporter

Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.