If Democrats are successful in their attempt to keep Rep. Shawnna Bolick off the ballot, they’ll almost certainly still have to face off against a different Republican in a race that could determine which party controls the Arizona House of Representatives next year.
A challenge filed by a Democratic attorney alleges that Bolick shouldn’t be on the ballot in Legislative District 20, which covers parts of north Phoenix and Glendale, because she didn’t list her home address or a post office box address on her nominating petitions. Instead, she used the address of a UPS store mailbox.
While the challenge against Bolick is only one of more than a dozen filed against legislative candidates this year, it has received extra attention because of the possible ramifications for the general election. Republicans, who have controlled the House since 1967, hold only a 31-29 advantage in the chamber. A loss of one seat would lead to a split chamber, while a loss of two would give control to the Democrats for the first time in more than 50 years.
And one of Democrats’ top targets in 2020 is District 20, which is currently represented in the House by Bolick and Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale. And the possibility that Bolick could get bounced from the ballot has generated a lot of chatter about a 30-30 split.
The Maricopa County Democratic Party, for example, wrote Bolick’s removal would “clear the way” for Democrat Judy Schwiebert, the lone Democrat running for the House in LD20.
“If the challenge stands and incumbent Rep. Shawnna Bolick is REMOVED from the ballot, the AZ House will have a 30-30 even split – giving Democrats a say in the lawmaking process,” the Maricopa County Democratic Party wrote in a press release on April 21.
However, if Bolick is removed from the ballot, that’s not the end of the story. Republicans would inevitably mount a write-in campaign for a replacement candidate to run in the primary election.
Write-in candidates for the primary election don’t appear on the ballot. But they can get their names on the general election ballot as their party’s nominee if they get the number of votes equal to the number of signatures they would have needed to get on the ballot in the first place.
For a Republican seeking a House seat in Legislative District 20, that would require 455 write-in votes.
Were a judge to keep Bolick’s name off the ballot, there would be a concerted effort by the Arizona and Maricopa County Republican parties to field a write-in candidate and ensure he or she gets the votes needed to qualify for the November ballot, said GOP campaign consultant Constantin Querard. He said the party organizations would simply have to print up some cards and make some phone calls targeted at high-propensity Republican voters and ensure they know that the party will lose a seat if its write-in candidate doesn’t get enough votes. It would require only a small amount of the get-out-the-vote efforts the party usually undertakes, he said.
Whether a write-in nominee would be a weaker candidate than Bolick, an incumbent with nearly $150,000 available for her campaign, is unknown. But there would almost definitely still be two Republicans on the ballot for the district’s two House seats.
“There’s basically zero chance of there not being two Republicans on the ballot in (District) 20,” Querard said.
Such a scenario would be reminiscent of 2010, when Republicans found themselves without a candidate in one of the state’s most competitive legislative districts in a wave year that was widely expected to favor the GOP.
No Republican candidates ran for the Senate seat in Yuma-based Legislative District 24, which was held at the time by Democrat Amanda Aguirre. Rather than forfeit the seat to the Democrats, Republican Don Shooter ran as a write-in. He garnered enough votes for his name to appear on the general election ballot as the Republican nominee and defeated Aguirre, giving the GOP enough seats for a supermajority in the Senate.
Kory Langhofer, Bolick’s attorney, has argued that the courts have already ruled that a UPS store address is sufficient when they allowed Dan Saban, a Republican candidate for sheriff in 2016, to remain on the ballot.
And as the wife of an Arizona Supreme Court justice, Bolick is entitled under the law to keep her address and other personal information confidential.
A spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Superior Court said the existence of such an affidavit by Bolick would be confidential without a court order, and a spokesman for the Arizona Supreme Court said Justice Clint Bolick had no comment on whether he had petitioned the court for confidentiality.
However, the secretary of state’s office has redacted Shawnna Bolick’s address, phone number and email address from her old campaign finance reports, indicating that such an order is in place.