Write-in Pima constable candidates can win JP9 July primary with Camacho off ballot

With incumbent George Camacho failing to make the ballot for Pima County constable in a South Side precinct, write-in candidates have a July primary opportunity to earn a spot in the November election.

Camacho, a Democrat in Justice Precinct 9, was found to not have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions, with 216 signatures tossed out for reasons such as voters living
outside the precinct or not being a registered voter at the time of
signing. 

Camacho, who was facing no opposition in the election, needed at least 492 signatures and filed 611. But Pima Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ruled he fell short after a challenge was filed last month.

Without the incumbent running, there are currently no candidates for constable in the precinct, leaving the ballot open for write-in candidates during the July 30primaries.

“If someone wants to run as a write in, they will need to submit the write-in nomination form, as well as a financial disclosure statement, to our office by the June 20 deadline,” said Jeremy George, deputy director of the Pima County Elections Department. 

Primary write-in candidates must garner at least a number of votes equal to the number they would have needed on nominating petitions, with the candidate in each party to do so and get the most votes being listed among the candidates for the November general election. The minimum number of votes required is 492 for Democrats and 270 for Republicans in JP9

“Of course, their name will not go on the ballot because it’s a write-in, but we do provide a list of all write-in candidates to each voting center that’s also posted on our website,” George said.

If there are no write-in candidates, then general elections could continue with no one on the ballot, potentially leaving JP9 without a constable. Write-in candidates could skip the primary and file to run in November by September 26, but would not have their names listed on the ballot.

Justice Precinct 9 includes the University of Arizona, the city of South Tucson and part of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and is a heavily Democratic district with 28,252 registered voters in that party compared to 6,617 Republicans.

Constables are officers of the county justice courts, who serve eviction notices, orders of protection, criminal and civil subpoenas, among other legal paperwork.

The Constables Office has been in turmoil for several years, with the on-duty shooting death of Constable Deborah Martinez in August 2022, former Constable Oscar Vasquez being repeatedly suspended from his duties by the Board of Supervisors after numerous incidents and then resigning, JP10’s appointed GOP incumbent Constable Anton Chism failing to gather enough signatures to be make the ballot this year, JP8 GOP incumbent Bill Lake-Wright having his residency challenged by his Democratic opponent, and many of the supervisors seeking to disband and defund or completely revamp the constables’ operation.

The former constable for JP8 and Martinez’s predecessor Kristen Randall, known as a “rebel” for giving people a head’s up of their upcoming eviction days before kicking them out and now an administrator in Green Valley Justice Court, resigned in January 2022, citing “archaic” practices and “a great divide in the office.”

Martinez, who was the newest constable in the county at the time of her death, called for “unity” in the office when she was appointed. However, she was also in hot water in her first few months on the job. She was under investigation by the Constable
Ethics, Standards and Training Board for criminal fraud, forgery and perjury
as she was accused of using fake signatures on her petition to run for
election that year. Martinez always maintained that the accusations were
false.

In 2021, former County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry pointed out to the supervisors that the workload for constables varies yet they receive the same salary. He recommended phasing out the elected constable positions in favor of civil servants “at a cost significantly less than the present cost of compensating a constable at $67,000 per year, plus benefits.”

“The constables are a fractured group,” Mark Napier, a former county sheriff then working as an assistant county administrator, told Huckelberry in a memo that was forwarded to the board. “This both with respect to personal interaction, appearance and how they pursue their duties.”

“They seem incapable of reaching full consensus on how to address many issues,” the memo said.”While we respect the autonomy of elected officials, there should not be significant deviation in the level of performance, appearance and manner of administration of duties between them. County citizens have a reasonable expectation that there will be consistency in how they are treated.” 

In 2022, County Administrator Jan Lesher made recommendations pressing the constables to share their
workloads evenly, dress similarly, adopt a constable’s policy manual and
keep track of their work. To give the recommendation some teeth, the
county board discussed slashing the pay of constables who refuse to
comply.

This week, the supervisors declined to replace the position left vacant by Vasquez’s resignation, with some on the county board again expressing their opinion that the office should be eliminated. Arizona state law requires that each county have elected constables, and the Board of Supervisors has been seeking a legal mechanism to restructure the office.