Click says no falling out with Orr; Dems file sig challenge
In a week in which Republican legislator Ethan Orr has been touting his latest endorsements, he may have lost the most valuable one of all. Sources tell TucsonSentinel.com that Orr has fallen out with auto dealer and GOP wheeler-dealer Jim Click, and has lost his job at the nonprofit Linkages.
In another twist of the political knife, local Democrats have moved to push Orr off the ballot, claiming he did not collect enough nominating signatures. Orr called the move "politics as usual," while Democrats accused his campaign of "sheer laziness."
Orr said Tuesday that he resigned from Linkages on Friday, but both he and Click denied that there has been a falling out between them.
Sources with knowledge of the relationship between Click and Orr, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the pair had disagreements over political policies and issues over the management of Linkages and another firm being started by Orr.
Orr denied that there are any differences between the two men.
"I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim Click," he said Tuesday. "Jim is still backing me."
Responding to this report on Wednesday (while I was interviewing Orr on the John C. Scott radio show), Click said he still supports Orr politically.
"I don't have any disagreements with Ethan Orr," Click said in a voicemail. "We have not had a falling out."
"I'm going to do everything I can to help him with this issue of the signatures," Click said. "I'm thrilled Ethan won this seat; I'd like to see him keep it."
Orr, a freshman Republican, said he resigned from Linkages because "it's very difficult ... being in Phoenix half the year."
Click founded the nonprofit group, which works to connect disabled people with employers, and serves as the president of its board. Orr had been the executive director of the group since 2004.
Orr said Tuesday that he has founded another agency, Simply Clean and Green, which will teach seriously mentally ill and homeless people "how to work" by doing landscaping and janitorial services. Orr said he has already lined up about 15 clients for the agency.
While he said that he resigned from Linkages because of the amount of time he has to spend at the Legislature in Phoenix, Orr said Wednesday that his new business is located in Tucson.
Mark Ziska, who serves on Linkages board, confirmed that Orr resigned from the organization last week.
Ziska, the CEO of Chief People Officer, the interim head of human resources at Pima Community College and a former Raytheon executive, also downplayed the rumors of a rift between Click and Orr.
"I would not say that," he said Tuesday. In a meeting last week, Orr stepped down "because of everything he had on his plate," Ziska said. "He was spread very thin."
Orr did "many, many good things" for the nonprofit in his 10.5 years with Linkages, Ziska said.
Hailey Thoman, a program manager with the group, is serving as its interim executive director while Linkages "works on a reorganization," Ziska said.
Dems claim Orr didn't file enough nominating signatures
Local Democrats moved Tuesday to have Orr's name left off the ballot, claiming he's nearly 50 percent off the mark in his petition filing.
Orr needs 361 signatures to qualify to appear on the ballot; Democrats said that 288 of the 634 he collected are invalid. A court will rule next week on the challenge that Orr is 15 signatures below the threshold to qualify for the ballot. The suit was filed by Jeff Rogers, a former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, on behalf of Paul Hilts, a voter in LD9.
The complaint maintains that the 288 invalid signatures are "those of non-registered voters, voters from other states or voters who reside in other districts."
The suit, filed Tuesday, says that 123 signatures are from voters who do not live in LD9 and are not registered to vote there, 83 are from people who are not registered voters, 15 whose addresses on the petitions don't match their voter registration, 6 from voters who previously signed a petition for Orr, 61 from people not registered to vote as Republicans, and 15 signatures that are incomplete or illegible.
Blasting Orr for the alleged signature shortfall and complaining that he's flouting the law by putting up campaign signs too early, county party Chair Don Jorgensen said in a press release that "Ethan Orr has failed at ‘Democracy 101,’ the most basic level of campaigning."
Rightwing group adds Orr to 'blacklist'
While Orr has spent the week touting a lineup of endorsements, from the Arizona Education Association and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association and the Arizona Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, he's also faced a blast from the right and been dubbed a "Legistraitor."
The Alliance of Principled Conservatives — a group founded by Frank Antenori, a former state senator, and political activist Christine Bauserman — has released a "blacklist" of Republicans who it deems aren't sufficiently conservative.
Targeted for their support of an expansion of Medicaid in 2013, Orr and 14 other Republicans shouldn't be re-elected, said the group, which Antenori and Bauserman alternately refer to as the Alliance for Principled Conservatives.
Voters in LD9 should "leave the bubble blank" — a move that would see Democrat Victoria Steele re-elected and newcomer Randy Friese face no opposition in the Democratic-leaning district — Antenori and Bauserman said.
Orr brushed off the partisan attacks Tuesday, saying that he wants to run "a campaign about the issues" while complaining of "the dirtiest, trickiest campaign" by his opponents.
"Let's have a real election," he said.
"I feel good about this race," Orr said, noting that he has a campaign fund of about $80,000.
Orr said he couldn't respond to the signature complaint "until I've seen a summons" and the details of the specific signatures the Democrats said are invalid.
"I've spent the last two years trying to not do politics as usual," Orr said. "They may very well win the seat because of it."