A judge will hear arguments Thursday whether Olivia Cortes can be a candidate in the recall bid against Senate President Russell Pearce.
Judge Edward Burke will consider arguments by Thomas Ryan that Cortes is a "sham candidate,'' running solely to draw anti-Pearce votes away from Jerry Lewis, the other candidate in the race. His lawsuit, filed late Friday, asks Burke to stop the ballots from being printed and distributed.
But Karen Osborne, Maricopa County's election director, said Ryan's plea is too late.
"It's done,'' she said.
She said all 70,000 ballots for the Nov. 8 special election were printed this past weekend, as Ryan had not obtained a restraining order last week.
"We had told every court months ago ... that we have to have a decision by the 23rd at 5 o'clock,'' Osborne said, when the presses started to roll. She said that's because federal law requires ballots to go out to military voters at least 45 days before the election -- meaning Saturday.
And more than 100 of those were put in the mail as required.
Osborne said that leaves Ryan with no legal options.
Ryan, however, said he is not giving up. He said one option would be to force the county to mail out a new set of ballots.
"I think we could reprint very quickly,'' he said.
Osborne scoffed at that prospect.
"I've never heard of that in all my years,'' she said. Anyway, Osborne said, such an order by a state judge would run afoul of federal law.
"We'll have to deal with that,'' Ryan conceded.
One option, he said, would be to simply give up on recalling those 102 ballots and instead concentrate on forcing the county to reprint the balance. And if that does not work, Ryan said his ultimate fallback position would be to ask a judge to set aside the election returns -- assuming Pearce wins.
"If you have a sham, diversionary candidate, you can invalidate a whole election result,'' he said.
Ryan is basing his claim largely on links between Pearce supporters and Cortes. And KPNX-TV reported that two of Pearce's nieces actually circulated nominating petitions to get Cortes' name on the ballot.
Cortes has consistently ignored requests for interviews. But she issued a press release Monday, insisting that her candidacy is legitimate -- and that "racism is alive'' among those who contend otherwise.
"I gathered and submitted more than 1,000 signatures of people who believe in me,'' her statement said, saying she "earned the right to be on the ballot'' and intends to win.
"Latinos everywhere should be outraged,'' Cortes continued. "We deserve to be represented and I intend to bring the Latino voice to the Arizona Senate.''