Steve Gaynor raises red flags in Secretary of State race

There has not been much good reporting on Steve Gaynor, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State who ousted Secretary of State Michele Reagan in the Arizona GOP primary, but what little I have seen reported raises red flags about this guy seeing his role as the chief elections officer in Arizona as classic GOP voter suppression in the tradition of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, both of whom are running for governor in November.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Michelle Reagan settled a lawsuit over Arizona’s bifurcated dual voter registration system for those who use the federal voter registration form.

Gaynor focused his criticism on the aspect of the settlement that requires the state to register voters for federal elections even if they use the state form. He said Michelle Reagan should not have settled and fought the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

I covered this at length in an earlier post. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had his ass handed to him in federal court over this same issue. So much for this litigation criticism.  Michelle Reagan is terrible, but Steve Gaynor fancies himself the next Kris Kobach. (Kansas and Arizona were the only two states who maintained this practice).

Steve Gaynor also says voter fraud has become a big problem in Arizona. Secretary of State candidate: Voter fraud must be Arizona’s priority. Yeah, sorry, but no, there is no evidence to support this favorite right-wing fantasy. Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth:

  • A comprehensive 2014 study published in The Washington Post found 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. Even this tiny number is likely inflated, as the study’s author counted not just prosecutions or convictions, but any and all credible claims.
  • Two studies done at Arizona State University, one in 2012 and another in 2016, found similarly negligible rates of impersonation fraud. The project found 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud nationwide from 2000-2012. The follow-up study, which looked for fraud specifically in states where politicians have argued that fraud is a pernicious problem, found zero successful prosecutions for impersonation fraud in five states from 2012-2016.
  • A review of the 2016 election found four documented cases of voter fraud.
  • Research into the 2016 election found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

It goes without saying that Gaynor supports Arizona’s voter ID requirements which are meant to prevent the non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud at the polls. Voter ID’s real purpose is to disenfranchise citizens who do not have the necessary documents and cannot afford to obtain them.

Gaynor’s campaign website also says that he will uphold Arizona’s ban on “ballot harvesting.” The 9th Circuit recently upheld the law, again, but a further appeal is likely. Federal appeals court upholds Arizona’s ban on delivering other people’s ballots:

A divided federal appeals court upheld Arizona’s ban on “ballot harvesting,” saying a lack of evidence of fraud is irrelevant.

In a 2-1 ruling Wednesday, the judges acknowledged arguments by the state and national Democratic parties that the Republican-controlled Legislature adopted the 2016 law without proof that anyone collecting ballots had tampered with them.

* * *

The dissent said the ban on ballot harvesting, complete with penalties of a year in prison and a $150,000 fine, “serves no purpose aside from making voting more difficult, and keeping more African-American, Hispanic, and Native American voters from the polls than white voters.”

Wednesday’s ruling is unlikely to be the last word. The split decision virtually guarantees that the appellants will ask the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to look at the issue.

And [in October] the same three-judge panel of the appellate court will consider a separate challenge to the ballot-harvesting law by Democratic activist Rivko Knox.

Steve Gaynor has also said that Arizona should Stop printing ballots in Spanish:

Steve Gaynor, a Republican running for Arizona secretary of state, said that the United States should stop printing ballots in any language other than English.

He made his comments Aug. 11 during a GOP candidate forum in Wickenburg. Patriot Movement AZ, a right-wing protest group, posted a video of the event on Facebook.

He continued, “I would be the first to say it should be … ballots, information pamphlets, all the material in our country, should be in English.”

Just a reminder, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a 1988 constitutional amendment requiring state and local government business to be conducted in “English only” was unconstitutional. Arizona Court Strikes Down Law Requiring English Use. Right-wing nuts in Arizona continue to beat this dead horse.

Moreover, what Gaynor proposes violates federal law.

A key provision of the Voting Rights Act requires some voting jurisdictions to provide election materials for minority language citizen groups.

Under the act, 10 of Arizona’s 15 counties must provide voters with ballots and election pamphlets in a language other than English. The requirement is based on U.S. Census data demographics in those counties.

There are roughly 900,000 voting-age Arizonans who can receive a ballot in another language as a result of the law, Census data shows.

Four counties — Maricopa, Pima, Yuma and Sana Cruz — must provide election materials in Spanish. Six largely rural counties must provide materials in either Navajo or Apache.

Gaynor explained that he supports repealing the federal law.

So what we have here is someone telling you that he will violate the law because he is a right-wing nut who personally disagrees with the law, the rule of law be damned.

Gaynor also has this bizarre campaign theme that appears in his campaign ad about not “making Arizona more like California.”

When it comes to election laws, however, California is far superior to the political backwater of Arizona. Where Arizona has attempted to eliminate all transparency and public disclosure in campaign finance, making anonymous “dark money” even easier, California has led the way with a model law for campaign finance disclosure that should be adopted in Arizona. Campaign finance disclosure reforms: follow California’s model law. It was relied on, in part, for the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative.

California is also one of thirteen states and the District of Columbia that have already approved automatic voter registration (AVR). Arizona should enact AVR to make it easier for citizens to be eligible to vote, not harder as Gaynor’s positions would do.

Gaynor admitted in a debate that he has no hands-on knowledge of how to run an election, one of the key duties of secretary of state. This is not an on-the-job training position.

Gaynor is largely a political unknown in Arizona:

Gaynor, who is president of Phoenix Management Group LLC, a private equity firm, and B&D Litho California, Inc., a commercial printing company, had never run for office before he filed to run for secretary of state in February.

He has shaped his campaign around his business background, saying he would run the Secretary of State’s Office like a business.

Government does not operate like a business, but Republicans just love to say this nonsense.

But there are some blemishes on Gaynor’s business record. He has been sued several times in business-related matters.

Lawsuits

Gaynor blamed California’s business and legal environment after settling a lawsuit in California that accused him of underpaying workers. On the campaign trail, Gaynor has often decried the Golden State’s burdensome regulations and tried to paint Hobbs as a California liberal, who wants to make Arizona more like its neighbor.

But Gaynor also faced two business-related lawsuits in Arizona.

In 2010, he was locked in a complicated legal battle involving the sale of his Arizona and Colorado-based printing plants. The purchaser of the two plants sued Gaynor, alleging he violated a non-compete agreement by “soliciting customers for business forms” to his California plant, thus competing with the new owners of the Phoenix and Denver-based plants.

Gaynor made $12.5 million on the 2007 sale, according to court documents filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Gaynor’s California plant prints commercial materials like paperback books and catalogs. The other two plants printed business forms like checks and invoices.

In selling the two plants, Gaynor agreed the California printing plant couldn’t be in the business of manufacturing business forms. Although the plant occasionally printed some business materials, it was not in the business of printing business materials — an endeavor that would have required additional, costly printing equipment, Gaynor said.

Gaynor dismissed the suit as meritless, but he eventually settled for a “minor” amount. He said he couldn’t remember how much he paid in the settlement.

“I paid them a little money kind of for them to save face and go away,” he said.

Gaynor also faced a lawsuit in 2005 for breach of contract from when he bought a small printing company through his business Gaming Supplies LLC. He agreed to purchase the company from a company based in California for $130,000.

Gaming Supplies was required to pay $40,000 in cash up front and then pay off the remaining $90,000 in 32 monthly installments. In the lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, the owners of National Card West Inc. claimed Gaynor didn’t pay any of the monthly installments.

Gaynor’s company then countersued.

The seller didn’t perform as promised, Gaynor said, explaining why he held back on payment. He said he was in the midst of coming to agreement with one of National Card West’s partners on payment when the other partner filed suit.

Both parties agreed to dismiss the case just months after it began, according to court records. Gaynor no longer owns Gaming Supplies LLC.

People can file lawsuits saying whatever they want, but that doesn’t make what they’re saying true, Gaynor told the Arizona Capitol Times.

“The mere filing of a lawsuit doesn’t mean there was something untoward about the action,” he said.

Lawsuits aren’t the best way to solve business disagreements, but the United State has turned into a “litigious society” wherein people often turn to litigation to solve their problems, he said.

Gaynor also said his experience with litigation is good experience for being
secretary of state because of the sheer amount of lawsuits the state office faces.

“For being secretary of state, it certainly is advantageous to have legal experience,” he said.

This litigious candidate comes right out and tells you that he intends to bumble into costly litigation (see above) for the state. Arizona has had far too much experience with this over the years.

The Phoenix New Times today reports on more legal issues for Gaynor. Secretary of State Candidate Steve Gaynor Saved a School; Upheaval Ensued.:

Steve Gaynor, the Republican candidate for Arizona secretary of state, once had a short-lived stint as the one-man board of a Paradise Valley private school.

His brief reign nearly 20 years ago culminated in tumult that resulted in the termination of the popular head of school and, eventually, the exit of Gaynor and his family from the school.

Drama that unfolded nearly two decades ago at a small private school in a wealthy enclave of Maricopa County might be viewed as just that — drama — but for the fact that Gaynor is running to be the state’s second in command. If elected in November, he stands a good chance of becoming governor, history suggests. Four of Arizona’s last nine governors rose from the position of secretary of state.

That drama, lodged deep in the past, also provides clues to the leadership practices of a businessman, relatively unknown by Arizonans until this year, who has never before run for office and is bankrolling his own campaign. One former parent described his management style as dictatorial. Another called Gaynor a “visionary” for saving the school.

The events paint a portrait of someone who is savvy, effective, and used to being in control.

Read the New Times piece for further details.

As the New Times says, Secretary of State is next in line of succession to governor. There is widespread speculation that Gov. Ducey will run for Senator McCain’s seat in 202o, or accept a cabinet position in the Trump administration. Do we really want a political unknown and political novice to succeed to governor?

Gaynor said in a debate that he is not seeking the office in hopes of it being a stepping stone to governor. He said, though, that if he is elected “I will study the governor’s office in order to be prepared.”

Yeah, that sounds likes someone measuring the drapes for the governor’s office.

Don’t do it, Arizona. Don’t buy this pig in a poke.





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