Republican state Rep. David Cook said he's not worried about the appeal to the petition signature case brought against him by Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
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AZ Supreme Court to decide if Cook stays on Republican primary ballot


Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers is one of the final holdouts continuing to challenge the validity of signatures her opponent collected to qualify for the July primary. 

Out of more than 20 challenges to candidate petitions and the voter signatures on them that were filed in mid-April, only a handful remain unresolved. Most were dismissed by a judge, voluntarily dismissed by the challenger or rendered moot after the challenged candidate dropped out of the race. 

Rogers is challenging hundreds of signatures collected by the Republican aiming to challenge her in the July 30 primary election, Rep. David Cook, of Globe. 

Rogers, an incumbent from Flagstaff, says that one of Cook’s signature gatherers forged many signatures that he collected, even presenting testimony from voters whose signatures were on Cook’s petitions but who said they didn’t sign. 

However, the trial court judge who heard the case, dismissed Rogers’ claims, saying in an April 24 ruling that she provided no proof of fraud. She quickly appealed that decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Though both are Republicans, Cook and Rogers differ in policy and politics. Rogers, who built a national profile as an election denier following the 2020 election, supported the controversial 1864 abortion ban that the Arizona Supreme Court last month declared enforceable, saying, “They got it right in 1864.” 

Cook is more of a traditional Republican, who said he supported the right to choose, even though he is personally against abortion. But he ultimately ended up voting against a repeal of the Civil-War-era abortion ban when three other Republicans in the House joined Democrats to strike down the ban. 

“I am not worried,” Cook told the Arizona Mirror via text message on May 2, after Rogers filed her appeal. 

Cook went on to say that he was busy checking out water availability and fire threats near Payson that day, “what a Rep/Senator should be doing,” he said. 

Rogers’ attorney, Tim La Sota, wrote in the appeal that the trial court erred when it failed to invalidate 132 signatures that Rogers claims were collected outside of the district and when it allowed any of the signatures collected by petition circulator Jason Wessel to count toward Cook’s total. La Sota argued that, because Wessel engaged in signature forgery, none of the signatures he collected for Cook should count. 

During the trial, Rogers challenged a whopping 1,033 of the 1,344 nomination signatures that Cook submitted. In the appeal, she claimed that only 583 of his signatures are valid, just less than the 595 he needs to get on the ballot. 

In Cook’s response to the appeal, filed May 6, Phoenix election lawyer Roy Herrera wrote that the county recorders in Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Pinal counties already checked and validated or invalidated the signatures the Rogers challenged, saying she didn’t provide enough evidence that any additional signatures came from voters who don’t live in the district.

“If Rogers believed additional signatures fell outside jurisdictional review of the four counties in the district, the burden fell on her to establish the deficiency of each signature,” Herrera wrote. 

The counties invalidated 563 of Cook’s signatures, leaving him with 781 valid ones, La Sota wrote, pointing out an 11-signature error in the trial court’s decision, which seemingly incorrectly ruled that Cook collected 792 valid signatures. 

La Sota also noted testimony from multiple people who said they didn’t sign Cook’s petition, even though their names appear on it, claiming that the rest of the signatures gathered by the man who circulated the petitions with bad signatures should also be thrown out because the circulator can’t be trusted. 

For example, David Jones, whose name is signed to Cook’s petition, said that he previously lived at the address at Apache Junction where his signature was allegedly collected, but that he no longer lives there and was not there on the date when his name was signed. 

“Rogers presented witnesses who testified that they did not themselves sign petitions sheets bearing their name; but none of these witnesses testified as to who wrote their name on the petition sheet,” Herrera wrote. “Meanwhile, the circulator whose signatures were questioned testified emphatically that he did not sign any voter’s name.”

Herrera argued that Rogers only proved that some of the alleged signers didn’t actually sign the petition, not that the petition circulator forged their signatures. 

“None of the witnesses testified to seeing, or having reason to believe, that their names had been signed by the circulator who collected them, Jason Wessel,” Herrera wrote. 

But La Sota argued that all of the signatures Wessel gathered should be thrown out because Arizona’s standard of presuming that signatures are valid should not apply to someone who engaged in alleged signature fraud. 

“As for having a witness, people who commit felonies do not typically do so in the presence of witnesses who could testify against them,” La Sota wrote. “With some crimes, witnesses are unavoidable. But with petition forgery, one can avoid witnesses by simply forging the signatures in private.”

Around 50% of the signatures that Wessel gathered were found to be invalid. 

Herrera called the idea that all of Wessel’s signatures should be thrown out “preposterous.” 

“Under (Rogers’) argument, any individual voter can claim to not have signed a petition sheet with their name on it, and on that basis alone the circulator will be presumed to have committed wrongdoing, and all other signatures gathered by the circulator of that sheet will be invalidated,” Herrera wrote. 

The state Supreme Court has already said it will not hear oral arguments from the lawyers in this case. Now the candidates will wait for a ruling from the court to determine if Cook will be on the primary ballot. 

This report originally appeared in the Arizona Mirror, an online nonprofit news agency. Find more reporting at More can be found on Twitter at @ArizonaMirror or at azmirror on Facebook.

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One comment

  1. KJZZ reported today that Wendy Rogers and David Cook will be on the Primary ballot. “Judge John Blanchard did throw out hundreds of Cook’s signatures — 563 of the 1,344 signatures he filed — but that left Cook with well more than the 595 he needed to qualify.

    “You’re darn right, I’m staying on the ballot,” Cook said.

    The ruling ensures what is expected to be a heated primary between the more moderate Cook and far-right Rogers in Legislative District 7 which includes part of Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Pinal counties.”

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