Petition signatures questioned in mayoral race

By Christia Gibbons

January 4, 2012 - 4:54 pm
Mayoral candidates Christian Price, left, and Carl Diedrich. File photos.

It will be up to Pinal County Superior Court Judge Gilberto Figueroa whether Maricopa Councilman Carl Diedrich gets to run for mayor after all.

Opponent Christian Price filed a lawsuit Dec. 28 to have Diedrich’s name removed from the ballot, claiming he doesn’t have enough valid signatures on his petitions.

It might not matter.

First, the county recorder took another look at the signatures after the lawsuit was filed and threw out six of the 15 questioned signatures even before a court hearing Tuesday, confirmed both Diedrich and Price’s attorney Anthony Tsontakis.

That would mean Diedrich would not have the required 143 signatures to run for mayor. He had collected 148 signatures.

But then, in what even Tsontakis said Wednesday was “a little bit quirky,” it turns out the number of signatures required is in question.

When the Maricopa city clerk and city attorney got the lawsuit they revisited the election statute outlining the number of signatures needed and found the number to be 132, which means even if all 15 were invalidated, Diedrich would have met the minimum requirement to be on the ballot.

City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said the election statutes outline the percentage of signatures needed by candidates based on the number of votes cast in the last election. In the case of a mayoral race, that percentage – 5 percent – is based on the number of votes cast for mayor in the last election, but originally the city put the number at 5 percent of the total votes cast in the election.

“It was an innocent mistake on the part of the city,” Fitzgibbons said. Both candidates were informed of the second interpretation of the statutes before Tuesday’s hearing.

Price’s attorney Tsontakis said the way the city clerk came up with the original 143 signatures needed was “a reasonable interpretation of the law” and that’s what he’ll argue, as well as arguing there are enough invalid signatures to remove Diedrich from the ballot.

For his part, Diedrich said, “I always thought the number of signatures the city set was wrong. I had read the statute.”

Regardless, he said he sticks by his 148 signatures. “Everyone signed the petitions with the right intent, and I won’t argue that any are invalid.”

Figueroa has asked both sides – Diedrich is representing himself – to file more briefings by Friday. He is set to make a decision Monday.

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