- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

PHOENIX (AP) — Green Party nominees labeled “sham candidates” said in court Monday that Republicans planted the idea that they run for office, but they said they didn’t become candidates to siphon votes from Democrats.

Christopher Campbell, Anthony Goshorn and Thomas Meadows testified that they decided to run for office because they wanted their voices heard.

The Green and Democratic parties say a majority of the Green Party’s nominees were recruited by Republicans hoping they’d attract votes from liberals who might otherwise support the Democratic candidate.

Four voters filed an election challenge asking that the disputed candidates be kicked off the ballot. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink says he will try to issue a ruling on Tuesday.

Lawyers argued that the disputed candidates were part of a scheme to defraud and deceive voters.

But Dennis Wilenchik, an attorney for some of the disputed candidates, said anybody who follows the law has a right to run for office.

“These people are legitimate candidates who want to run,” Mr. Wilenchik said. “Where’s the fraud?”

Seven of the 11 disputed Green Party candidates have withdrawn, but two have requested their withdrawal be invalidated. Elections officials say there is no mechanism in state law for a withdrawn candidate to change his mind and get back on the ballot.

The disputed candidates got on the ballot using a provision in state law that applies only to the Green Party. It allows people in some cases to become a Green Party nominee with a single write-in vote.

Mr. Meadows, the Green Party’s nominee for state treasurer, testified that he was having lunch with Steve May on July 15 when Mr. May took a phone call, then asked Mr. Meadows if he was interested in running for treasurer.

Mr. May, a former Republican lawmaker, helped Mr. Meadows fill out paperwork and turn it in by the 5 p.m. deadline that day, Mr. Meadows testified. Mr. May has said he also helped other candidates that day.

“This is something I always wanted to do,” said Mr. Meadows, a 27-year-old tarot-card reader and UFO investigator. “He knew I always wanted to make changes in the system.”

Mr. Campbell testified that his friend, the daughter of a Republican lawmaker and former House speaker, suggested he run for the state Senate.

Green Party officials say the law allowing people to become Green nominees with a single write-in vote treats the party differently than major parties and forces the Greens to associate publicly with people who don’t represent their values and beliefs.

A federal judge last week denied a Green Party request that the disputed candidates be removed from the ballot.

State and federal law requires elections officials to mail ballots to military voters by Friday. Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne testified that she cannot meet the deadline if the judge orders her to remove the disputed candidates from the ballot.

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