From S.C. to Arizona, questions about 'sham' candidates

The use of so-called sham candidates might be on the rise this cycle.

In South Carolina, Senate candidate Alvin Greene (D) has been called a "plant" by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), who doubted the unemployed Army veteran could have come up with the $10,400 filing fee.

And in Arizona, Republican strategist Steve May has recruited three homeless people to run on the Green Party ticket for state-level office. It prompted the Arizona Democratic Party to file complaints with local, state and federal prosecutors in order to have the candidates removed from the ballot.

"These are people who are not serious and who were recruited as part of a cynical manipulation of the process," said Paul Eckstein, a lawyer for the Arizona Democrats. "They don't know Green from red."

May recruited the candidates from Mill Avenue, a bohemian commercial strip next to Arizona State University, according to The New York Times.

More from the Times:

"Did I recruit candidates? Yes," said Mr. May, who is himself a candidate for the State Legislature, on the Republican ticket. "Are they fake candidates? No way."

To make his point, Mr. May went by Starbucks, the gathering spot of the Mill Rats, as the frequenters of Mill Avenue are known. 

"Are you fake, Benjamin?" he yelled out to Mr. Pearcy, who cried out "No," with an expletive attached.

"Are you fake, Thomas?" Mr. May shouted in the direction of Thomas Meadows, 27, a tarot card reader with less than a dollar to his name who is running for state treasurer. He similarly disagreed.

"Are you fake, Grandpa?" he said to Anthony Goshorn, 53, a candidate for the State Senate whose bushy white beard and paternal manner have earned him that nickname on the streets. "I'm real," he replied. 

Gathered around was a motley crew of people who were down on their luck, including a one-armed pregnant woman named Roxie whom Mr. May befriended sometime back and who introduced him to the rest.

The Democratic Party is fuming over Mr. May's tactics and those of at least two other Republicans who helped recruit candidates to the Green Party, which does not have the resources to put candidates on ballots around the state and thus creates the opportunity for write-in contenders like the Mill Rats to easily win primaries and get their names on the ballot for November. Complaints about spurious candidates have cropped up often before, though never involving an entire roster of candidates drawn from a group of street people.