Questions Remain About Pearce Role in Cortes Campaign

October 07, 2011

What role did those close to Senate President Russell Pearce play in the sham campaign of Olivia Cortes?  A court hearing scheduled for this afternoon was canceled after Cortes withdrew from the recall election yesterday. But as KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports, there are many unanswered questions.

The attorneys who filed the complaint against Cortes allege that Russell Pearce, family members, and his campaign were complicit in getting her on the ballot. They say the goal was to siphon votes away from any challenger—helping Pearce get re-elected. The attorneys had planned on calling Pearce family members and a political consultant to testify under oath. Justice of the Peace Lester Pearce—Russell’s brother, two nieces, and campaign consultant Constantin Querard. But today’s hearing became irrelevant after Cortes withdrew from the election. Attorney Michael Wright says he’s still unsatisfied.

MICHAEL WRIGHT: Who funded Olivia’ Cortes’ campaign.  Who paid for the signs?  Who designed the signs?  Who circulated the signs?  Who took them down at the request of the city?  Who put them back up?  And who paid for the ciorulators of her petitions.  Those are questions that are very intriguing and nobody has answered them yet.

I asked Pearce after last night’s debate about the allegations that his family worked on the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes.

RUSSELL PEARCE: Why don’t we deal with the real issues? She’s not in the campaign anymore. I had nothing to do with it. I’m not going to speak—I’m not going to speak for other people.

But as reporters kept pressing Pearce on the issue—he relented and commented on allegations his nieces helped circulate signature petitions for Cortes.

RUSSELL PEARCE: Folks, what I read in the paper, when I talked to my nieces who both shed a lot of tears over their involvement and were brokenhearted because of the games the media plays with them. You’d thought they did nothing wrong. I wouldn’t have done it.  I wish they hadn’t of done it. They did nothing wrong.”

The attorneys who challenged Cortes say they’ll turn over any incriminating information to investigators at the Secretary of State’s Office and County Attorney’s Office. Just who helped pay for Cortes’ candidacy will be disclosed in three weeks when campaign finance reports are due.

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