Our View: Cortes campaign could ultimately bite Pearce - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Our View: Cortes campaign could ultimately bite Pearce

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Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 6:53 am | Updated: 8:28 am, Fri Sep 30, 2011.

It took a lawsuit and courtroom questions from a lawyer and judge to do it, be we finally got our first glimpse of Olivia Cortes on Thursday.

What we saw was strange to say the least -- and for politics in Arizona, that's saying something.

Cortes told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke that she is indeed a legitimate candidate in the recall election of State Senate President Russell Pearce, and not -- as many have claimed -- a "sham" candidate planted to siphon votes away from Pearce challenger Jerry Lewis.

In fact, Cortes claims it is Lewis who is siphoning votes away from her.

Whatever. We'll let all of that be sorted out by Judge Burke, who is expected to have a ruling by Monday on whether Cortes can remain on the ballot.

Legally, it may be difficult for Burke to remove Cortes. But common sense dictates that her campaign doesn't pass the smell test.

Cortes testified that she doesn't know who paid a petition company to circulate nominating petitions to get her on the Nov. 8 ballot -- the petitions that Pearce supporters and extended family members helped distribute. She doesn't know who created the website for her campaign. And she doesn't know who paid to put up campaign signs on her behalf with the slogan "Si, Se Puede" (roughly translated: "Yes, it can be done"), ostensibly designed to appeal to Hispanic voters, who obviously aren't Pearce's biggest backers.

East Valley Tea Party Chairman Greg Western -- the self-professed brains behind Cortes' campaign -- also pleaded ignorance in court Thursday regarding these mysterious finances.

Really?

So in the fantasy world of Olivia Cortes, she wakes up one day and says, "You know, I've never been involved in politics my whole life, but I'm going to enter the recall race against the most powerful Republican in the state. I don't plan to campaign or make myself available to voters or the media who might help spread my message. I don't need any volunteers to help with my campaign. And I'll be my own campaign committee chairwoman and treasurer. But gee, isn't it nice how this website and all these signs are miraculously appearing and being paid for by someone? And isn't it neat that the East Valley Tea Party, which worships at the throne of Russell Pearce, is now apparently behind my candidacy?"

Please.

Did Cortes think she could enter an extremely high-profile race against Pearce -- who, depending on your point of view, is either the most revered or most despised politician in Arizona outside of maybe Joe Arpaio -- and just disappear inside her house? Did she not understand that being a public official includes actually being in public and having some sort of accountability to the people she serves?

At best, all of this makes Cortes 1) Incredibly naïve, 2) A very easy person to manipulate, or 3) Both.

At worst, she is what many people accuse her of being.

In the end, it's not going to matter for three reasons:

First, voters are not as dumb as these mysterious people behind Cortes' campaign believe.

Second, this is not a general election with countless ballot questions where voters may choose a candidate in a race they know nothing about simply because they like the sound of their name. It's a recall election. It's the only measure on the ballot. Anyone going to the polls should already have a good idea what this race is about, and who is running.

And finally, while Pearce also pleads ignorance in regards to Cortes' campaign, her candidacy could actually hurt -- not help -- him. The people who are either staunch supporters or critics of Pearce aren't going to change their vote because some fringe candidate is on the ballot. But for sane-minded independent voters -- yes, they do exist -- these kinds of shenanigans are a turn-off and may in fact push them toward Lewis.

Regardless of how Judge Burke rules, that could be the ultimate justice in this case.

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