AZ: Democratic Party's Ballot Purge Provides Opening for Tucson Greens

When Democrats and Republicans seek to dissuade others from engaging in third party and independent political activism, one of their primary arguments is that third party and independent campaigns for office are a fool's errand because it is so difficult for them to achieve ballot access.  Let's put aside the fact that such ballot access hurdles are erected by Democratic and Republican lawmakers themselves in order to cement their hold on power at all levels of government.  Even despite the fact that third party and independent candidates face biased and discriminatory rules and regulations when they seek to run for office – for example, having to collect anywhere from two to ten times more petition signatures than their Democratic and Republican counterparts –, these candidates often still fight their way onto the ballot, and they do so by gathering many more signatures than are required by law.  Why?  Because their petitions are challenged by professional partisans in the major parties, often on the basis of the most absurd technicalities.  Taken to its logical extreme, the ideal outcome of such a process is an election in which there is only one candidate on the ballot or perhaps even none at all.  However, sometimes it can also inadvertently provide a strategic opening for opponents of the two-party state. 

The Tucson mayoral race provides us with an interesting case in point.  As it now stands, only two candidates are assured ballot access: a Green and a Democrat.  There would have been at least four, but in recent weeks the Democratic party successfully purged an Independent and a Republican party candidate from the ballot by petition signature challenges.  From the Arizona Daily Star:
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 . . . 

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.  [Emphasis added.]

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.
The Arizona Green Party attained ballot access in 2010 and, under a new law, are assured access through 2012.  Currently, there are two Green candidates vying for the party's nomination in the race, both of whom apparently survived the Democratic party's push to purge the ballot of all competition.  From Ross at Green Party Watch:
That Green will either be Mary DeCamp, a City Council candidate in the past, or Dave Croteau, a past mayoral candidate.  There will be a primary to determine who will be on the ballot for the general election.  Another candidate who was running for the Green nomination dropped out of the race in order to support and work on sustainability issues with the now-former Republican candidate.
Though the Republicans could still nominate a write-in candidate, the Green party has an excellent opportunity to gain attention from the media and wider recognition in the state, especially given the fact that they will be holding a contested primary.  If they can successfully capitalize on the marginalization of the GOP, the Greens may even be able to score a major upset.  Greens across the country should be paying close attention to this race, and lend their support in whatever way possible.

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