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Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Bennett Turns To Courts To Reimburse Campaign Expenses

Ken Bennett
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
file | staff
Ken Bennett in KJZZ's studio in 2018.

Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett is making one last legal effort to get the public to reimburse him for campaign expenses.

Bennett is asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders to order state and county election officials to allow him to prove that the signatures they disqualified on his forms for public financing actually are legitimate. That would involve things like bringing in affidavits from the people involved.

Arizona law allows candidates for statewide office to get public dollars if they refuse to take private money and gather a set number of $5 donations.

Bennett had hoped to qualify for $839,704 in public financing for his run. But by the deadline he failed to get the necessary 4,000 contributions.

He complained that he came up short at least in part because the Secretary of State's Office shut down the online portal for donations several hours early. And he managed to convince Judge Connie Contes to order the portal reopened for several hours.

Even with that, a legally required check of signatures on the paper forms submitted showed he still came up 120 short.

In the latest lawsuit he contends county officials erred and that at least 125 of the signatures they voided are valid. So now he wants Sanders to "analyze new evidence'' that these were valid and issue an order that he be declared to have qualified for public funding.

Bennett loaned $54,800 of his own money to his gubernatorial campaign, which ended when he lost of Gov. Doug Ducey in the Aug. 28 primary.

The Citizen's Clean Election Commission was not named as a defendant in Bennett's lawsuit so executive director Tom Collins says no one can force the commission to give Bennett any money.

Additionally, Collins says there is no legal procedure to give him the money if he does win the lawsuit.

He pointed out that Bennett lost his status as a "clean'' candidate when he failed to submit qualifying donations by the deadline. That required Collins to reclassify him as a "traditional'' candidate who takes private donations.

"The time to ... qualify for new 'clean' status is gone,'' Collins said.

Claire Caulfield first joined KJZZ as an intern in 2015 and now wakes up before the sun to produce and report for Morning Edition. She graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2017 and covered education policy in the nation's capital, election night in New York City and Native American issues for Cronkite News/ Arizona PBS. Before joining the Morning Edition team, she also worked on a documentary about rap music in the deep South and directed a film on drinking-water quality in the United States.On the weekends, you can find Claire flying her photography drone or working her way through the Pulitzer Prize book list.