TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Democratic candidate for Arizona Secretary of State is alleging campaign petition signatures were stolen from a Tucson office.
Mark Robert Gordon, a potential candidate challenging incumbent Michele Reagan, claims his campaign experienced a theft from the Pima County Democratic Party Headquarters on East 1st Street.
Gordon alleges someone stole a number of candidate nomination petitions that were signed by voters and his campaign was the only one targeted.
Staff at the headquarters said they have roughly three dozen candidates under the headquarters' purview.
"The fact that somebody would in any way interfere with the democratic process is a little concerning," Gordon said during a phone interview with Tucson News Now.
Gordon said neither he nor the campaign blame any specific individual or opposing campaign.
He said that on Thursday, May 10, a volunteer claiming to be involved with his campaign went to the Pima County Democratic Party Headquarters to collect the petition signatures, as volunteers typically do.
According to Gordon's news release, the petitions needed to qualify for the August ballot were picked up by an "unidentified and unauthorized person" and have still not been found or turned over to his campaign.
The deadline for candidates to file petitions to qualify for the ballot is Wednesday, May 30.
"People want to be helpful to campaigns. So it was possible that it was somebody who was trying to be helpful - one of our volunteers, canvassers, or elected officials who have endorsed our campaign - perhaps they had somebody," Gordon said. "We checked with every single one and nobody had it."
Gordon's campaign filed a case report with the Tucson Police Department, per a recommendation from Secretary of State Reagan. Officers went to the party headquarters in Tucson to take statements from people there.
The staff is puzzled by the disappearance.
"I, honestly, have no idea," said Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jo Holt, when asked about the location of the petitions. "If he says he is missing some then I wouldn't have any reason to doubt that."
Holt said she believes three petition sheets are missing.
"It doesn't mathematically add up to be a big deal," she explained. "But if any of our candidates are unhappy, we do everything we can to make them happy, because we want them to be successful."
Each sheet of paper carries 10 signatures, meaning likely 30 of the 5,801 verified signatures Gordon needs to qualify for the ballot are missing.
"We're talking about, let's say, as many as 8,000 signatures. Those are done page by page, 10 signatures a page. That's a lot of paperwork. A lot of organization that's required. If some fall through the cracks, it wouldn't be too surprising," Holt said. "We haven't had any campaign come in and attempt to steal someone's petitions. But we do have mistakes. Volunteers do make mistakes."
Gordon told Tucson News Now that he has comfortably surpassed the 5,801 signature count required to qualify for the ballot, and has to "build that cushion" because the signatures need to be verified and other campaigns can challenge the validity of each.
"I don't care if it's one signature or 1,000 signatures. It's a signature. It's someone's identity in the first place. It's also someone's democratic voice," Gordon said, explaining that he believes more than just 30 were stolen. "It needs to be protected."
Holt has already implemented changes at the headquarters. All petition sheets for their roughly 36 candidates are all locked up in file cabinets and volunteers who come into the office to collect have to sign in.
"Typically, we know the person who's come in to pick up petitions," she said. "If it's a person with whom we are not familiar then we just ask them for identification. That still doesn't prove that they're with the campaign. But we do at least know who took them."