One Damn Thing After Another: More Mix-Ups in Pima County’s Election

If this were medieval England, John Brakey and his fellow election-integrity activists would have Pima County elections director Brad Nelson’s head on a platter, probably garnished with the fingers of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and county information-technology chief John Moffatt.

OK, let’s not go too far. What the activists really want is Nelson to lose his job. But since Huckelberry is in charge of personnel and is Nelson’s supervisor, the chances of that happening are nil. And that comes straight from Huckelberry’s mouth.

“Lynchings were outlawed long ago,” Huckelberry says.

What started the latest high-tech lynching attempt of Nelson was the arrest of AuditAZ’s John Brakey, who was working on Sept. 6 as an observer for the Democratic Party during a post-primary ballot hand-count and audit. According to the arrest report, Brakey was told by Nelson to stop talking to the people who were doing the hand-count.

After Republican observer Judi White complained to Nelson, Nelson asked Brakey to stop and to bring any questions directly to him. Brakey didn’t stop; Nelson told him to leave; Brakey didn’t leave; Nelson had him escorted from the counting area by a Pima County sheriff’s deputy. The deputy asked Brakey to leave, but he wouldn’t, and told the deputy he wanted to be arrested.

The deputy cuffed him (with his hands in front of his waist because of an arm injury Brakey was still on the mend from) and took him downstairs. The deputy cited Brakey with criminal trespass in the second degree, took the cuffs off and gave Brakey his phone to call his attorney.

It’s worth noting that the deputy turned down Brakey’s request to cuff him again and take a picture of him with his cell-phone camera, according to Continue reading

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Nucleus Meltdown: A Not Quite LiveBlog of the Debate Between Democratic Candidates for the Pima County Board of Supervisors

Two incumbents on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, District 3’s Sharon Bronson and District 2’s Ramon Valadez, met their respective Democratic challengers, Donna Branch Gilby and Robert Robuck, at a meeting of the Pima County Democratic Party’s Nucleus Club last week. Supporters cheered and applauded; critics booed and hissed. Here’s a recap of the raucous caucus.

6:01 p.m.: Moderator Ash Silverberg introduces the candidates. Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez talks about growing up in Pima County and getting his start in politics when he interned for Dan Eckstrom, the previous District 2 supervisor and kingpin of southside politics. Valadez mentions that he also served in the Arizona Legislature and as an aide to Gov. Janet Napolitano. He says the county has made a lot of progress with conservation, sustainability and transportation. He gets big applause.

6:04 p.m.: Robert Robuck explains that he moved to Sahuarita from California because his wife grew up here. He says he got worried about local politics when he learned about plans to mine copper in the Santa Rita Mountains. Robuck decided to run for office when Valadez wouldn’t return his call regarding the mining proposal. He mentions that election integrity is a big issue in his campaign. The crowd goes wild with applause.

6:07 p.m.: Donna Branch-Gilby says she running against Bronson “because it was time to stop asking, stop lobbying, stop explaining about the necessity of really being sure we had an accurate election in a democracy and it was time to do something about it.”

Branch-Gilby gives props to Bronson for her work on the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan before calling Bronson “the leading obstructionist” on the election-integrity issue. She also complains that Continue reading

RTA Big Reveal: The Boondocks Affair

After spending much of yesterday talking to lawyers, we think we have a better understanding of the fight to preserve the ballots from the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election, which Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford has said she is ready to destroy.

We’ll get to the part about how secrets may or may not have been spilled at the Boondocks Lounge in a second, but here’s a bit of background for those who came in late: In May 2006, Pima County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund an estimated $2.1 billion in transportation projects over two decades.

Attorney Bill Risner, who has successfully sued Pima County to gain access to electronic databases related to ballot tabulation, suggested last year that the RTA election might have been flipped—that county election officials rigged the computers to show the RTA propositions passed even though voters actually rejected it.

Since then, we’ve had an investigation by Attorney General Terry Goddard (which critics have dismissed as a “sham”) and lots of legal jousting by Risner and the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which reached a climax when the Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to give up an appeal of the case and turned over the databases to Risner. Or, more accurately, offered to turn them over to Risner, who has been too busy to pick them since winning the case

You’re probably wondering: Why not just recount the ballots? Because state law prohibits the county from doing a recount without a judge’s order.

We’re almost to the part about the Boondocks, so stay with us.

But before we get to that: Jim March, the tech guy with the election integrity crew, says he’s been working on developing a program that might (or might not) detect any signs of fraud in the RTA database he got from the county back in January. He said yesterday that he hoped to have some results by November.

March made his comments at Risner’s press conference, where the scrappy attorney alerted the public that Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford was planning to destroy the ballots Continue reading

Branch-Gilby At Great Watermelon Meet-Up

Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby, who is challenging Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in District 3, will be in Picture Rocks this Saturday, July 12, passing out cold watermelon. Even if you’re not a Picture Rocks resident, getting some cold watermelon could be mighty tasty this monsoon season!

Branch-Gilby will be at the Great Watermelon Meet-Up from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on the southwest corner of Sandario and Picture Rocks roads.

According to a press release from Camp Branch-Gilby, the candidate will be “passing out cold slices of watermelon and conversing with her future constituents…”

“I want to invite all the folks who are in the area on Saturday morning to come by and say hello,” Branch-Gilby press-releases. “I’m looking forward to meeting people and listening to their ideas and concerns about Pima County,”

Meet Your Candidates: Board of Supes

Tune into John C. Scott’s radio show between 11 a.m. and noon on Friday, June 13, for a one-hour interview with Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby, who is challenging Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the District 3 primary. Scott’s show airs Monday through Friday on KVOI, 690 AM.

If you want to meet a candidate in person, Republican Joe Higgins, who is challenging Supervisor Ann Day in the District 1 GOP primary, has announced a listening tour of local coffee houses. The first Cup of Joe is 7 a.m. Friday, June 13, at Kelly’s Coffee and Fudge, 3605 W. Cortaro Farms Road.

Higgins also announced support of some local business types this week, including restaurateur Bob McMahon; Elizabeth Gonzales-Gann, chair of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Dorothy Finley, owner of Finley Distributing.