A former high school art teacher is leading a bipartisan effort to recall an elected official for shirking his lawful duty and perpetuating a Trumpian fiction about voter fraud in Cochise County, Arizona.
“It’s the far-reaching effects of ‘The Big Lie,’” Eric Suchodolski, 53, of Sierra Vista, told The Daily Beast. “It’s basically seeped into the fabric of a nice place like this.”
From what Suchosdolski can tell, County Supervisor Tom Crosby, a Republican, was seeking to create “something from nothing” when he called the county’s voting machines into question shortly before the election in November. Crosby—a former border patrol agent—and his allies complained that the machines were not certified and continued to voice doubts after the state documented otherwise. Crosby’s crew contended that the signatures were in the wrong place.
Two weeks before Election Day, Crosby joined Supervisor Peggy Judd—the other Republican on the three-member board—in calling for the ballots to be counted by hand.
The county’s longtime director of elections, Lisa Marra, was joined by the county attorney’s and the state solicitor in saying such a last-minute switch to a manual tally would be inadvisable, unwarranted, and against state law. Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley agreed, saying the proposed hand count “does not comply with clearly stated Arizona law.”
The election went ahead without any hitches. Crosby and Judd nonetheless repeatedly failed to certify the results even though the board was required to do so by law. All 47,000 could have conceivably been tossed as a result of their actions.
During a Dec. 1 court hearing, McGinley ordered the board to proceed with what he termed its “nondiscretionary duty.” Crosby asked for a one-day delay.
“The item was misagendized on the agenda,” he complained.
The lone Democrat on the board, Supervisor Ann English, warned the judge that Crosby was planning to bring out-of-state election deniers into court the next day and stage an extended verbal smackdown” between them and state officials.
“I think it’s a circus that doesn’t need to happen,” English said.
The judge asked if such shenanigans are normal.
“Normally it’s not normal, but within the context of what’s going on now, it seems to be becoming more normal,” English replied.
McGinley ordered the board to meet later that same day. Judd and English did as ordered and performed their legal obligation. Crosby simply didn’t show.
In the meantime, Crobsy and Judd had filed suit against Marra for failing to go along with the manual tally. Crosby and Judd were themselves named as defendants in a suit brought by the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans (AARA) challenging the legality of the hand count.
Crosby retained lawyer Bryan Blehm, whose views regarding the Big Lie and a larger conspiracy were reflected by a recent tweet..
“Never forget that the COVID monstrosity was an intentional effort by Democrats & rhinos to eliminate the President of the United States & all of his followers,” Blenheim tweeted. “They did so by stealing your elections through widespread mail in voting. Never forget they must be punished severely.”
Crosby dismissed any concerns that the county would be stuck with the legal bills, saying his side was sure to win. But he suffered twin defeats in state court and was ordered to pay the other sides’ attorney fees: $30,715 for the Marra case and $86,394 for the AARA suit, a total of $117,109. Suchodolski heard fellow citizens suggest that this was $117,109 more than the county should have to pay.
Despite prevailing in court, the highly respected Marra resigned, saying she had grown weary of being harassed because of her opposition to the hand count.
Suchodolski lives in Crosby’s district and he wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper proposing a non-partisan, multiparty effort to recall his representative. Suchodolski is himself an independent who admired the late Sen. John McCain, who was known as a “compassionate conservative.” He likes to think that the crazies are in the minority and there is a reasonable majority that shares his outrage, especially when everybody’s ballot was placed in jeopardy over compounded falsehoods.
“What happened here affected all the votes, “ he said.
Suchodolski repeatedly checked with the county elections office to see if anybody had filed to mount a recall. Nobody had. He decided he would have to set things in motion.
“I managed to get in touch with some people who know other people and I just sort of got the ball rolling,” he told The Daily Beast. “I wasn’t looking to take the lead on this.”
On Dec. 14, he held the first meeting of The Committee to Recall Tom Crosby. He had drafted a petition that read:
“Cochise County Supervisor Tom Crosby violated his oath of office and attempted to obstruct our county’s election processes. He defied the order of an Arizona Superior Court judge by refusing to certify our county’s 2022 election. This would have disenfranchised more than 47,000 county voters. He interfered with election officials, ignored legal advice of our county attorney, and promoted an illegal hand count of 100% of ballots. He violated multiple Arizona Title 16 statutes regarding elections. These actions resulted in unwarranted expenses to taxpayers. Supervisor Crosby is unfit to continue in his elected position and should be recalled.”
Suchodolski explained that they would need to get 10 percent of the district’s electorate to sign within 120 days. That meant 4,700 signatures, with another 1,300 as a cushion against any that might be tossed out. Should they reach their goal, Crosby would be removed from office. A replacement would likely be elected in November.
Volunteers began collecting signatures at everything from a Martin Luther King Day event to outside a taqueria to a farmer’s market.
“The last count, we were about 25 percent to our target,” Suchodolski said on Sunday.
Crosby and Judd remained the 2-1 majority on the board of supervisors and they voted to assign the former duties of the departed election director Marra to County Recorder David Stevens, a known election skeptic.
“We built this house on sand,” English said. “I think you have vilified the election process.”
Crosby did not respond to a request for comment. Suchodolski continues to seek a recall as a way to counter the seepage of the Big Lie and affirm his hope that the crazies are just a vocal minority.
“I guess we will find out,” he said.