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Lawsuit challenges signatures gathered in CD1 race

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A Marana man is seeking to have one of his Republican
contenders in the 1st Congressional District race removed from the ballot.

Jonathan Paton filed a lawsuit Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court,
alleging that signatures gathered by Gaither Martin are invalid. More than half
of Martin’s 1,099 signatures either were fraudulently collected or gathered
under a petition sheet that did not list Martin’s actual address in Eagar, the
lawsuit contends. Striking those signatures would put Martin below the 568 he
needed to join the race, Paton said.

“Running for public office and gaining the trust of voters means following the
rules,” Paton said in a statement. “Gaither Martin failed a candidate’s most
basic test: earn the support of residents in the district to qualify for the
ballot.”

Martin did not immediately respond to requests for comment left with his
campaign and on his cellphone Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Paton and Martin are among four Republicans seeking to represent a large swath
of northern and eastern Arizona, which includes some American Indian
reservations. Two Democrats and a Libertarian also are running.

Paton’s lawsuit asks a judge to declare Martin’s signatures invalid and keep
election officials from placing his name on the August primary election ballot.
Paton also wants to be awarded attorney fees.

The Arizona Legislature allowed candidates to collect signatures from the old
district or the new district number because the lines were redrawn for this
year’s election.

Should Martin overcome questions about his address, Paton contends that Martin
still shouldn’t be allowed to remain in the race. According to the lawsuit, 226
of Martin’s signatures are from individuals not registered to vote in the county
identified on one of Martin’s petitions. Martin did not personally witness the
signatures of 195 people, more than a dozen signatures were crossed out,
addresses accompanying others did not match voter registration records, and 69
signatures are from non-Republicans, making them all invalid, Paton claims.

The Secretary of State’s Office does not validate signatures, but any candidate
running in the race can challenge them. Paton’s lawsuit is the first signature
challenge filed this election season, but a spokesman for the Secretary of
State’s Office said it expects more.

The other two Republicans in the 1st Congressional District race are Patrick
Gatti and Douglas Wade. Wenona Baldenegro and former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick are
seeking the Democratic nomination. Anthony Prowell represents the Libertarian
party.

There is no incumbent in the race. First-term Rep. Paul Gosar is seeking office
in rural western Arizona’s 4th Congressional District instead of his
Flagstaff-based 1st District.