PHOENIX (AP) — Libertarian attorney Michael Kielsky on Friday dropped out of the Nov. 8 recall election of state Senate President Russell Pearce, narrowing the potential field of candidates as the filing deadline approached.
Pearce, a Republican who is known nationally for sponsoring legislation against illegal immigration, is on the ballot automatically, and Republican charter-school executive Jerry Lewis filed nominating petitions last month to qualify for the ballot.
Another man, independent Tommy Cattey, dropped out earlier, but Republican Olivia Cortes' candidacy remained up in the air Friday as the 5 p.m. MST deadline to nominating petitions with the Secretary of State's Office approached.
Kielsky said he had wanted to provide a Libertarian voice in the race and take a stand against SB1070, the 2010 Arizona immigration enforcement law sponsored Pearce.
But he said Friday he would instead support Lewis as a candidate who "stands for liberty and freedom."
Recall election proponents have called Cortes a stalking horse for Pearce, saying her possible candidacy was intended to draw votes from his opponents. Cortes did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Constantin Querard, a Republican political operative who said he is working on an independent expenditure group that will support Pearce, denied he was involved in the petition-circulation effort to get Cortes on the ballot.
Two news outlets, the Arizona Republic and Phoenix New Times, quoted an unidentified petition circulator for Cortes as saying that Cortes' candidacy was intended to help Pearce.
Pearce automatically qualified for the ballot when he refused to resign after elections officials certified that recall supporters had submitted enough voter signatures to hold the election.
Other candidates had to submit petitions signed by at least 621 voters from Pearce's district.
The Arizona Supreme Court is scheduled next week to consider a Peace supporters' appeal of a trial judge's ruling against the supporters' legal challenge.
A separate legal front could be opened by possible challenges to the ballot status of challengers. A spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office said Sept. 23 is the deadline to file such a challenge.
Recall supporters have criticized Pearce's emphasis on the illegal immigration issue, but they, Pearce and Lewis have focused much of their public comments on other concerns, including state budget cuts and improving the economy.