Judge: GOP elections case won’t be resolved before meeting

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge has said it was unlikely that a court case over Arizona Republican Party elections in January would be resolved before a proposed special meeting in April where a redo election could take place.

The lawsuit was temporarily delayed by top state officials who allegedly avoided process servers as activists suing the party face scrutiny over the signatures gathered to force a redo election, The Arizona Republic reported.

Republican activists gathered 353 signatures from state committee people to force a redo of all party elections after party Chair Kelli Ward won reelection in a narrow race that went to a runoff and then would not listen to repeated calls to audit the results. Ward and other officials argued the activists did not gather enough signatures and tricked people into signing.

Attorney Timothy La Sota, who is representing the activists in a lawsuit against Ward, accused Ward of trying to sabotage their efforts. The lawsuit asks the court to force the party to fairly count all signatures gathered by the group.

Ward and other officials were then accused of avoiding process server Gary Viscum who said he tried to serve them the lawsuit at their headquarters building, at their homes and through various means of communication but never received a response and was never able to locate them.

“I can not imagine this is the first time the AZGOP has been named in a lawsuit and I would think you have a policy for accepting service of such documents,” Viscum wrote to Ward. “I also can not imagine that it is the policy of the AZGOP to actively avoid service of legal documents naming it in any type of legal action.”

La Sota asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp for alternative service of the documents. He agreed. Kemp then indicated the legal matter would not be resolved in time for an April 24 meeting.

Attorney Jack Wilenchik, who is representing the state party, told The Arizona Republic on Thursday “at no point was there any doubt that we would respond to this case.”

Wilenchik asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit and argued the activists have improperly carried out efforts to force an election do-over and wanted to intervene in the results “without a clear legal basis.”