Democratic attorney Jonathan Rothschild may be the only major-party candidate left standing in the mayoral race after today.
Superior Court Judge Paul Tang bounced independent Pat Darcy from the ballot Monday after the Pima County Recorder's Office found he came up 106 signatures short on nominating petitions.
A short time later, Republican Shaun McClusky attempted to withdraw his nominating petitions before facing his own court challenge this afternoon, where Democrats will argue he didn't obtain a sufficient number of signatures to get on the ballot.
Democrats have objected to the withdrawal attempt. Attorney Bill Risner said it's clear McClusky thinks he might preserve his ability to run as a write-in candidate. "It's a rather transparent scam to avoid the legal requirements," Risner said, adding McClusky lost control of the petitions when he submitted them to the City Clerk.
McClusky could not be reached for immediate comment, but state law says candidates can't run as write-in candidates if they filed nominating petitions that were found to contain an insufficient number of valid signatures.
The County Recorder's Office disqualified 212 of McClusky's nominating-petition signatures because the signers weren't registered to vote, lived outside the city or had also signed petitions belonging to other mayoral candidates, leaving him short of the 1,060 valid signatures he needed.
A court hearing on the petitions, and withdrawal attempt, is scheduled for this afternoon.
Risner, who also represented the Democratic challengers to Darcy's petitions, argued Arizona makes it fairly easy to run for office. There isn't a filing fee, for example, or any other such obstacle to weed out candidates.
"To get in that corral, there's only one fence you have to jump," he said. Aside from being a registered voter in the appropriate jurisdiction, he said, "You need to get the required number of signatures."
Darcy offered no court defense of his petitions, beyond noting there is a built-in disadvantage for independent candidates, who need far more signatures than party candidates. As an independent, Darcy needed 2,596 valid signatures. Republicans, meanwhile, needed 1,060 and Democrats needed 1,642.
He said he was dismayed the Democratic Party challenged him at all. "What are they afraid of?" he asked, saying that if the tables were reversed, he would have welcomed a contest rather than try to kick all of the challengers out of the race. "You want to compete. You don't want it just given to you," he said, adding it is a drain on the courts, as well as the city and county staffs.
City Clerk Roger Randolph acknowledged in court that the number of challenges this year is unprecedented, saying the last challenge in a city race came in 1999.
On Thursday, Democrat Marshall Home withdrew after he was challenged on his residency requirements. He conceded he has been living at a county address for months and voted from that address last year.
On Friday, a judge removed Republican Ron Asta from the ballot for not meeting his signature requirements.
County Democratic Chairman Jeff Rogers said there's a "convergence of events" that explains the number of challenges. With Mayor Bob Walkup stepping down, it's an open seat. Challengers were sloppy in their signature gathering. And he and party leaders have made it a priority to make sure candidates qualify if they're going to be in the race.
Also on Monday, Rothschild became the first mayoral candidate to survive a court challenge when a Superior Court judge rejected an unorthodox argument by former challenger Home that it's a violation of the constitution for a lawyer to be mayor since they're members of the judiciary.
Judge R. Douglas Holt wrote in his opinion that nothing in the constitution or state statute prevents attorneys from holding city or state office.
It appears the only primary race for mayor on the ballot will be between two Green Party candidates, Mary DeCamp and Dave Croteau.
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at email@example.com or 573-4243.