June 30, 2004
A state legislative candidate from Chandler got a second chance Tuesday to convince a court her two incumbent opponents should be removed from this year’s primary ballot.
But the new opportunity didn’t help Gretchen Wolfe, as a judge signaled he probably would allow Reps. Warde Nichols and Steve Yarbrough to continue their re-election bids.
The three Chandler Republicans are competing for two House seats in District 21, which covers most of Chandler and southern Gilbert. Wolfe challenged the candidate petitions of Warde and Nichols, claiming many signatures were collected by mail instead of in person as required by law.
On Monday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pendleton Gaines said he didn’t believe Wolfe had successfully proven her case against Yarbrough after a two-hour hearing. But Gaines had ordered further argument on whether 13 petitions submitted by Nichols should be rejected because he had photocopied his signature as the circulator instead of writing his name each time.
Gaines later said he had to withdraw from the case because of a possible conflict of interest he came to realize near the end of Monday’s hearing. Gaines didn’t disclose the nature of the conflict, and both sides said they didn’t ask Gaines to step aside.
The case was transferred to Judge Edward Burke to be heard for a second time Tuesday afternoon. The delay allowed Nichols to confirm two other petition signatures that had previously been discounted by the county recorder’s office.
Nichols’ attorney and county officials agreed Nichols could withdraw the 13 challenged petitions and have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Yarbrough still had 43 more signatures than the minimum.
Burke, while not issuing a ruling Tuesday, said he was skeptical about Wolfe’s chances of prevailing.
"It is a very high burden, because I suppose, the state doesn’t like to disfranchise voters or reject them," Burke said.