Home>Election>Smith Drops Re-election Bid Amid Forgery Scandal

Austin Smith speaking with attendees at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections" hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, July 24, 2021. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/The Star News Network)

Smith Drops Re-election Bid Amid Forgery Scandal

Denies wrongdoing but acknowledges political reality

By The Center Square, April 22, 2024 10:03 am

(The Center Square) – Arizona Rep. Austin Smith withdrew his candidacy for re-election after a signature challenge alleged that some signatures on his nominating petition were forged.

“It seemed ludicrous because Republicans trying to get on the ballot don’t seek Democrat signatures and would have no reason to forge Democrat signatures since they don’t count,” he said in a statement on Thursday morning. “Nevertheless, it was something I took seriously because the coordinated attack included press releases and social media activity and other things that made it clear that this was a well-organized effort.”

“The recommendation I received most was that I bow out and live to fight another day. I might be confident of victory, but all it would take is a judge believing any one person, and all would be lost,” he continued.

The Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ office said allegations of forgery are automatically referred to Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office declined to comment for now.

“The Attorney General’s office does not comment on the potential for any criminal investigations. I will have to decline to comment at this time,” a spokesperson wrote to The Center Square in an email.

The lawsuit from Democratic lawyer Roy Herrera suggests that Smith may have personally fabricated some signatures, KJZZ reported.

Smith is a Republican member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus representing Legislative District 29, which covers parts of northwest Maricopa County.

He is also the senior director of Turning Point Action, which was part of the conservative organization Turning Point USA that can directly help political candidates. Smith stepped down from his position with the group on Thursday afternoon, but it’s unclear if he will resign from the legislature, The Washington Post reported.

The Republican lawmaker also asked voters in his district to write in James Taylor, who’s worked in the energy sector, as the write-in candidate to take his spot.

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman is calling on Smith to resign.

“I’m not one to hold back or mince words so I will say what is as clear as day: House Representative Austin Smith should resign immediately,” he said in a statement. “This is a man who has lied to the people of Legislative District 29 and the entire state about our election operations for at least three years. And now he is accused of lying about the signatures he personally collected to get on the ballot again.”

Smith is not the only lawmaker facing scrutiny from signatures challenges. House Democratic Whip Melody Hernandez dropped out of her bid for state Senate in the face of a signature challenge, The Center Square reported.

Cameron Arcand for The Center Square

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