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Arizona Green Party Senate candidate admits GOP, Democrats are actually backing him

Yellow voter here sign in front of building
Mariah Temprendola/Cronkite News
The Burton Barr Central Library serves as a polling location for Arizona’s presidential preference election on March 19, 2024.

A Green Party candidate running for U.S. Senate is coming clean about why he entered the race, saying Republicans and Democrats — not Greens — are backing his candidacy.

In April, the Arizona Green Party said the only two candidates appearing on the ballot in the party’s primary race, Arturo Hernandez and Mike Norton, have no connections to the party. State party leadership alleged Hernandez and Norton are spoiler candidates propped up by Republicans and Democrats in order to siphon support away from the Arizona Green Party’s chosen write-in candidate, Pima County Green Party Chair Eduardo Quintana.

At the time, the party pointed out that Norton’s campaign received thousands of dollars in donations from Democratic PACs and mega donors.

In a statement, Norton partially admitted to those allegations, though he said his candidacy was meant to thwart Hernandez, not Quintana.

“My intent was not to sabotage an election,” Norton wrote. “Quite the opposite, my intent was to stop the saboteur.”

Norton has long alleged Hernandez was a spoiler candidate backed by Republicans, pointing out that when Hernandez filed to run for office his campaign treasurer was Chrissie Hastie, a campaign finance consultant from Nevada who has ties to Republican Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo.

On April 22, the day before media outlets began reporting Norton’s allegations, the Hernandez campaign filed an amended report removing Hastie’s name from campaign finance reports.

A source close to Lombardo's campaign said Hastie's firm In Compliance Inc. resigned after setting up Hernandez's account with the Federal Elections Commission and has not worked with his campaign since that time.

The Hernandez campaign also hired prominent Republican attorney Kory Langhofer to defend it against a lawsuit challenging his candidacy.

“All the red flags are flying,” Norton said. “It’s extraordinarily difficult to believe there’s not a connection there.”

Hernandez did not respond to a request for comment.

Norton also alleged without proof that a nonprofit tied to Lombardo’s inaugural fund – where Hastie serves on the board of directors – is funding Hernandez’s campaign. Hernandez reported no contributions or expenditures through March 31, even though the campaign collected 2,300 signatures ahead of the April 1 signature filing deadline.

A spokesman for Lombardo denied the allegation.

"Governor Lombardo and the Lombardo Inaugural Fund are not affiliated with this candidate in any capacity," Elizabeth Ray, a spokesperson for Lombardo, said.

Norton — a former Republican turned independent before he registered with the Green Party earlier this year — admitted that he has political aspirations but did not plan to run for federal office until at least 2026.

He said that changed when he was approached by local Republicans, who he won’t name, opposed to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake. They feared Hernandez was a sham candidate meant to divert votes away from presumptive Democratic Senate candidate Ruben Gallego and increase Lake’s chances to win the election.

“When the rumors became reality, I was already prepared,” Norton said. “I filed my statement of intent within hours of [Hernandez] filing his papers.”

Norton also argues he is the most qualified candidate in the race. According to Norton’s LinkedIn profile, he has two decades of experience working with companies that transport “arms, ammunition, explosives and radioactive materials,” and he claimed much of that time was spent lobbying in Washington.

But that very background also puts Norton at odds with key Green Party platforms, including anti-war efforts.

“These other candidates support genocide, Israel, more bombs to kill more children, and we don’t,” Quintana, the Green Party write-in candidate, said of Norton and other U.S. Senate candidates in Arizona.

But Quintana did applaud Norton for being honest about his campaign.

“My reaction is I’m very happy to hear he is coming clean, because our campaigns are about honesty and integrity,” Quintana said.

Quintana acknowledged that he has a challenge ahead of him given he has to convince enough Green Party voters to write in name to defeat Norton and Hernandez, whose name’s will be printed on the ballot.

Quintana said his campaign has mailed postcards to all Arizona Green Party voters to encourage them to write in his name on the ballot.

But Norton thinks his decision to come clean could actually boost his chances of winning the Green nomination. He cites voter registration numbers showing Green Party registration has seen modest increases since he entered the race, though the party was only recently recognized as an official political party in Arizona in December and has seen similar increases in registration in every reporting period since that time.

“If I am going to win the primary, I need to make a statement and need to explain why I should be supported by the few people who are going to vote,” Norton said. “Hopefully it motivates people.”

But Norton, who left the Republican Party after Kelli Ward was elected chairwoman of the state party in 2019, admitted “I am an independent” and said he could run for office in a future election as a Democrat, though he said “that would not be easy for me to do.”

He added this in his statement: “I am running as a Green Party candidate, but I am also strongly supported by Independents, Democrats and far more Republicans than you would think.”

Quintana said that message, if communicated to voters, should be enough to propel him to victory in the July 30 election.

“To the extent that people are aware of the circumstances in this race, I think we have a good shot at winning,” he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated with a response from Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo.

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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.
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