When Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett abruptly decided to run for Governor in April, he knew there would be challenges to overcome. For one thing, getting over 6223 signatures in five weeks to qualify for the August Primary ballot is a daunting task. Secondly, as a Clean Election candidate, he has to gather 4000 qualifying $5 donations He can accept only $58,810 in early contributions - which won’t go far in covering campaign expenses.
Bennett was surprised, however, at the lengths Governor Doug Ducey’s campaign would go to keep him off the ballot entirely. During a meeting with supporters at a local restaurant in Prescott, Bennett explained what happened.
"Just to give you a little insight, on how hard they are working to not have me on the ballot, which tells us a lot," Bennett started out, as he explained the opposition he has encountered. "When your opponents work really hard to not have you in the ring, that means that they don’t want to fight. This is David versus Goliath… This is it. And I’m the 'David'. But we know how that one turned out, too."
"When we started collecting signatures, the last week in April - we only had 5 weeks to collect over 6200 signatures - I went to two companies that have people that collect signatures. One was going to collect about 1000 signatures, he said he could collect, another was going to collect 3000 maybe. Two days after I had hired them to collect the signatures, Ducey sent two attorneys over to the first guy, and they had collected signatures for Ducey earlier in the year, but they were finished, they didn’t need any more signatures, so they told them to stop collecting signatures. Well, they sent two attorneys over and said, 'We never officially canceled your contract, so we threaten you with a lawsuit and you must stop collecting for Bennett or we’re going to sue you.' So, he stopped collecting, I understood that."
"Well, the other one," Bennett continued. "The other signature collection company, a nice lady out of Apache Junction - she had not done any work for Ducey, so they couldn’t pull the contract thing. The same night that they threatened the lawsuit against the first company, they called her on the phone and offered her between $5000-$10,000 as a bribe if she would just stop collecting signatures for me. She said, 'No, I like Ken Bennett, and I’m going to collect signatures.' About five days later, they contacted her a second time and said, 'We’ll pay you $6 per signature.' The going rate was $3 per signature. 'We’ll pay you $6 per signature if you’ll stop collecting signatures for Bennett and collect signatures for us.' She said, 'No, I’m with Ken and I’m going to do this.' So, they went to great lengths to prevent me from even getting the signatures to get on the ballot."
Bennett says that in a matter of five weeks, they collected almost 8,000 signatures, between paid collectors and volunteers.
Now, Bennett’s signatures have been challenged in court by political supporters of Governor Ducey, claiming many of his signatures are invalid for a variety of reasons. Bennett promises to fight the challenge vigorously in court. The hearing is next Thursday.
"I believe the people deserve a choice, and we’re going to give them that choice," Bennett said.
Looks like my campaign hit Ducey's 'inbox'. He wants to hit 'delete'. I will vigorously defend almost 8,000 voters from having their voices disenfranchised. More to come. #DuceyGoonsIncompetent— Ken Bennett (@BennettArizona) June 14, 2018
Bennett says he’s running because he believes that Arizona can be better. "The truth matters," Bennett said, citing the last budget. "And in some very critical matters, we are not being told the truth."
He is worried about the structural imbalance of the state budget and many of the accounting tricks and gimmicks.
"We can do better," Bennett promises.
April 21 - Bennett talks to eNews about why he's running for Governor:
Editor's note: We did reach out to the Ducey campaign for a comment, but have not yet had an official response.