KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College,
and Maricopa Community Colleges

Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legal challenge dropped against Democrat running for Schweikert's seat in Arizona's competitive CD1

Residents in Arizona’s Congressional District 1 dropped their legal challenge that alleged Democrat Marlene Galán-Woods did not qualify for the ballot.

The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the challenge after the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office found Galán-Woods collected more than the 1,495 signatures she needed to qualify for the ballot.

Galán-Woods, one of six Democrats running to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman David Schweikert, turned in over 2,400 signatures to run for office. The Recorder’s Office found that 391 of the 840 signatures challenged by the plaintiffs were invalid. That left Galán-Woods with 2,082 valid signatures, nearly 600 more than she needed to qualify for the CD1 Democratic primary election.

Galán-Woods’ attorneys also provided evidence refuting other allegations made in the lawsuit, including that two circulators were not qualified to collect signatures. 

The plaintiffs alleged that 241 signatures came from two circulators who can’t collect signatures under state law because they have felony convictions and are ineligible to vote.  

But attorney Andy Gaona, who represents the Galán-Woods campaign, provided voter registration records showing both circulators are registered to vote in Maricopa County.

According to emails between Gaona and Eric Spencer, the attorney who filed the legal challenge, one petition circulator was indicted — but not convicted — on felony charges, and the other had their civil rights restored. 

The Galán-Woods campaign was unable to disprove allegations that a third circulator who collected 205 signatures was ineligible to circulate petitions due to a felony conviction.  

Emails between the attorneys also showed that Gaona provided evidence to refute a claim in the lawsuit that Galán-Woods herself committed fraud. The plaintiffs alleged Galán-Woods claimed to personally collect dozens of signatures at events she did not attend.

However, Gaona produced photos, event invitations and sworn statements from signers that affirmed Galán-Woods did collect the signatures in question at fundraising events in November 2023.

Gaona called the lawsuit “frivolous” in those emails and threatened to seek an order from the court requiring the plaintiffs to pay the campaign’s attorneys fees.

“But Ms. Galán-Woods is less interested in recovering her fees than she is with making sure the public understands that your clients were untruthful in a complaint that they verified under penalty of perjury,” Gaona wrote. “As a result, she extends a one-time, take it or leave it offer to your clients: she will forego her ability and right to recover fees in exchange for a written apology from your clients.”

In response, Spencer provided a statement from the plaintiffs.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience caused, although this challenge was conducted in good faith and with valid reasons,” they wrote. 

The campaign no longer plans to seek attorneys fees, according to a statement by campaign manager Aditi Katti.

"The plaintiffs and their lawyer filed a meritless claim but couldn’t even come up with a meaningful apology," Katti said. "However, we will take their half-hearted apology as a concession that this case should never have been brought and was just a desperate attempt to attack the strongest candidate in this race. Marlene is focused on her campaign and will defeat David Schweikert this fall."

Get more Arizona politics news

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.