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Effort to disqualify Arizona Sen. Shooter's foe fails

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower-court ruling that kept a Republican challenger to state Sen. Don Shooter on the August primary ballot.

Shooter had appealed to the high court after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge allowed Toby Farmer to remain on the ballot despite forged signatures on his nominating petitions.

Judge John Rea found seven signatures on Farmer's petitions were forged and that Farmer collected them and signed the petitions as the circulator. But the judge ruled Shooter's lawyers presented no evidence that Farmer knew about forgeries and refused to throw him off the ballot.

Shooter's attorney, Timothy La Sota, urged the Supreme Court to remove Farmer, citing a state law barring candidates who commit petition forgery. But the court issued a brief order Friday upholding the lower court ruling. A explanation of the decision will come later.

``I think this opens the door to candidates committing more petition forgeries,'' La Sota said. ``Because it's hard to know if it's not proven under these facts how one would ever prove it.''

Farmer said in a statement that two courts have now determined that he did nothing wrong.

``Don Shooter demonstrated a new low even for him with his frivolous lawsuits and baseless claims,'' Farmer wrote. ``I'm reminded exactly of why our district needs new representation.''

Shooter, a Yuma residents whose District 13 stretches from southwestern Maricopa County to the California border, chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. He also said he believes the ruling opens the door wide for fraudulent signatures on candidate petitions.

``In essence you're making the petition system the honor system -- yeah, we trust you -- and you know how honorable politicians are,'' Shooter said. ``I'm not as concerned about Toby Farmer being on the ballot because the voters will take care of that. But I am concerned about the structural problem that this has exposed.''

Shooter said he expects the Legislature to address the issue next session.

The Supreme Court's action addressed the last active candidate challenge for the primary election. Candidates or others challenged 20 Congressional and Legislative candidates, and 12 either withdrew or were thrown off the ballot for various qualifying issues.

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