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Political Notebook: Tucson-area candidate waiting for GOP recount as party loses members
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Political notebook

Political Notebook: Tucson-area candidate waiting for GOP recount as party loses members

At first, Sergio Arellano was surprised to come so close to beating incumbent Kelli Ward in the race for chair of the Arizona GOP.

During the Jan. 23 party convention, he lost by only 42 votes to Ward in a runoff election. That was a loss of about a 3% margin to a chair who had just been endorsed by Donald Trump.

But then people began raising questions about the accuracy of the count in lesser races that took place at the convention. Arellano, who splits time between Sahuarita and Phoenix, asked for a recount or audit of his race, but he still hasn’t gotten it, and there’s no sign he will.

Read the full story here.

“I haven’t heard anything. No communications. No text messages, no emails, no voice mails,” he said. “At this point in time, it feels like there are shenanigans.”

Ward has said in interviews that there are no provisions in the party’s bylaws for a recount to occur after the convention. But her unwillingness to pursue a recount or audit is angering legislative Republicans, who are in a fight with Maricopa County over auditing its election — an effort Ward is supporting.

Fourteen state House members and four senators wrote in a Feb. 5 email to Ward: “Now, our collective message is being undermined by your insistence that none of these standards should apply to your election as AZ GOP Chairman.”

“This inconsistency is simply not acceptable.”

Former Pima County GOP Chair Bill Beard, a member of the party’s state committee, is pushing for a recount.

“The people I have spoken to who have communicated with me over the last couple of weeks are very unhappy with her response in light of election integrity being such a dominant issue for Republicans of all stripes,” he said. “At this point it’s going to take a special meeting of some kind to call for a revote.”

The party’s bylaws require that 40% of the approximately 85 state committeemen demand a special meeting, or 20% of the state committeemen from nine different counties.

The resolution of the issue is especially urgent now for the state GOP. Arizona Secretary of State records show that the party lost 14,318 registered members just between Jan. 5 and Feb. 1. That compares to a loss of 1,721 for Democrats and an increase of 11,066 independents.

Political pros quash Finchem recall

There was a time after Jan. 6 when a grassroots movement was building in Legislative District 11 to recall Rep. Mark Finchem, the Oro Valley Republican, for his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection and events leading up to it.

Ralph Atchue, the chair of the Democrats of Casa Grande, was leading the effort. He set up an email address and a webpage.

“I had, ballpark, 150 volunteers who contacted me,” Atchue said. “Pledges of $15,000. That was from doing nothing — just talking with people.”

But then Phoenix political consultants, led by Geoff Esposito of Creosote Partners, stepped in. Atchue, advised that a recall would require a professional effort, stepped back.

No doubt it’s true a recall election takes a tough effort. Just getting the election requires collecting 24,774 valid signatures, which must be submitted within 120 days of pulling the petitions. That means collecting about 207 valid signatures per day — more, to have a cushion.

But now there is no recall effort at all, or none that can be seen.

On Monday, Rep. Athena Salman, a Tempe Democrat, held a press conference to introduce a resolution to expel Finchem from the House. She introduced one LD11 voter, Dana Allmond, at the press conference, but nobody had even contacted the LD11 Democrats beforehand, Atchue said.

It seems that Esposito and Rural Arizona Action, a 501(c)(4) entity, have prioritized a long-shot effort at expulsion by House members over a longer-shot, more arduous recall effort.

Pablo Correa, co-executive director of Rural Arizona Action, said, “We’re also supporting recall.” But he cautioned, “With the last recall, it took years.”

Atchue said the locals have no idea what’s going on now that the pros are in charge.

Council to hear zoo controversy

The controversy over the Reid Park Zoo’s expansion will likely get a new hearing at the Tucson City Council.

Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik has asked for a discussion at the March 9 study session, he said in his weekly newsletter.

Kozachik is a big backer of the zoo expansion and has been unhappy with the late-arriving movement against the taking of Barnum Hill and the south duck pond, which are treasured public areas west of the zoo. He asked that the agenda item be added to discuss amenities that could be added to Reid Park, and to discuss the process that brought the expansion forward.

He did not give an inch on the idea of the expansion, scheduled to begin construction later in March, going forward.

My Pillow CEO cites Pima County

Pima County makes a fleeting appearance in the new video by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, an avid Trump supporter who insists the Chinese used computer hacking to steal the presidential election from Trump.

The video, called Absolute Proof, aims, as the title suggests, to prove that Trump was robbed of victory by an assortment of villains.

Spoiler: It does not.

Along the way, Lindell posts a list of alleged intrusions into U.S. election computers. It was compiled by Dennis Montgomery, who is notorious for various reasons, among them that he worked for then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County to try to gin up a conflict of interest charge against the judge overseeing Arpaio’s criminal contempt case.

One IP address on Montgomery’s list is from a Pima County computer, which is listed as “Pima County elections.” Actually, though, the IP address is for a computer at Pima Animal Care Center, as ABC 15 journalist Garrett Archer noted on Twitter.

“Thanks to Mike Lindell, we now have absolute proof that dogs and cats voted in Pima County last November,” Archer said.

Pima County IT looked into it and put out a more sober statement: “The IP address shown is for www.pima.gov. Nothing in the screen shot that is shown provides any level of proof for the statements being made. There are no Elections or Voter Registration systems tied to the IP address shown.”

Contact: tsteller@tucson.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter.


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