Attorneys trade barbs in Congressional District 1 candidate dispute

By Wayne Schutsky
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2024 - 5:54pm
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2024 - 5:57pm

Marlene Galán-Woods
Marlene Galán-Woods

Attorneys for Democrat Marlene Galán-Woods say a legal challenge to her candidacy in Congressional District 1 is unfounded.

Galán-Woods turned in over 2,400 signatures to run for office, but a lawsuit filed by three CD1 residents alleged that over 1,100 of those signatures aren’t valid. If true, that would leave her about 150 signatures short of the nearly 1,500 she needs to qualify to run for office in the Scottsdale-based district.

Galán-Woods blamed the challenge on incumbent Republican Congressman David Schweikert, though one of the residents who filed the challenge has donated $850 to one of Galán-Woods’ Democratic opponents, Andrei Cherny.

“This desperate challenge will fail. I will continue to fight for Arizona families and I look forward to defeating David Schweikert this fall,” Galán-Woods said in a statement.

Galán-Woods’ attorneys claim the legal challenge is based on faulty information. That includes allegations that 241 signatures to put her on the ballot came from two circulators who can’t collect signatures under state law because they have felony convictions and are ineligible to vote.  

In a letter, attorney Andy Gaona says the two circulators are actually registered to vote in Maricopa County, making them eligible to collect signatures.

Gaona acknowledged that one of those circulators had a prior conviction but had her civil rights restored, including the right to vote.

He accused the plaintiffs of relying on inaccurate commercial databases. 

“Commercial databases like this are notoriously unreliable, and do not account for expungements or the sealing of records,” Gaona wrote.

Gaona provided copies of both circulators’ voter registration with the letter.  

But attorney Eric Spencer, who represents the residents who filed the suit, said Gaona did not provide evidence the circulator’s rights were actually restored.

“So, this circulator has been subpoenaed for trial and it will be her obligation to prove her eligibility despite the criminal record,” Spencer wrote.

Gaona did not not dispute allegations that a third circulator who collected 205 signatures was ineligible due to a felony conviction. 

The legal challenge also claims hundreds of other signatures collected by the Galán-Woods campaign should be thrown out, because the signers did not qualify under state law to sign her petitions. That includes allegations that 240 signers did not live in CD1 boundaries; 117 signers were not registered to vote; and 42 signatures are invalid because the signer isn’t a registered Democrat.

Again, Gaona said those claims are inaccurate.

He listed voter registration information for dozens of signers that appears to partially debunk those claims by showing at least 139 of the challenged signatures belonged to eligible Democrats in CD1.  

“In short, there is no universe in which your clients’ claims can proceed,” Gaona said. He asked Spencer to dismiss the case.

In his response, Spencer declined, and alleged that 84 signatures Gaona claimed were actually valid had other issues he did not address.

“It is entirely irrelevant to find a particular signer was registered to vote, for example, when that same voter signed Ms. Galán-Woods’ petition as a duplicate signature,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer called on Galán-Woods to drop out of the race.

The challenge is scheduled to go to trial on April 24.

Politics Elections