Flagstaff mayoral candidate Victor Varela has dropped out of the race, first making the announcement Thursday in a post on the KAFF radio stations’s social media page.
The announcement follows Varela admitting to the Arizona Daily Sun earlier this week that he had submitted fraudulent signatures to the city in order to appear on the ballot.
"I am so sorry. I am dropping out," Varela told KAFF News. "It was never my intention to commit fraud or to cheat my way in."
Varela told the Arizona Daily Sun Thursday night that he had been in touch with the city clerks office and informed them he was no longer seeking the office.
“People can say what they want and think what they want. You know? I really don’t care.” Varela said. “I wasn’t trying to cheat. That's not my personality whether they believe me or not.”
Varela again alleged he was only trying to argue before a judge that, because the pandemic prevented him from gathering signatures, he should be allowed on the ballot.
Varela said now he may have to go before a judge but not in the way he had hoped.
Varela has been under investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office since April, when he had denied allegations of wrongdoing. Although no longer running, his name is likely to remain on the ballot during the August primary.
With Varela out of the race, three candidates are still vying for the position of Flagstaff mayor.
Flagstaff resident Paul Deasy and city councilmembers Charlie Odegaard and Jamie Whelan are all still vying to replace current Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, who is seeking a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives.
In an email, Deasy called the situation “unfortunate” and added that because Varela’s name is likely to stay on the ballot, it is up to citizenry to educate voters about which candidates are worthy of consideration.
“I think it is incumbent upon all of us to now educate our family members, friends and colleagues that there really are only three viable candidates in the primary,” Deasy said.
Varela submitted more than 1,000 signatures to the city for his mayoral candidacy. According to analysis by the Arizona Daily Sun, more than 700 of the addresses on his petition are not registered with the city’s address mapping system that shows registered addresses in the city. Only a handful of addresses that exist in the city are not registered to that system.
Varela ran for a position on the city council during the 2016 election, but also dropped out after questions were raised regarding the validity of his signatures to appear on the ballot. At that time, however, Varela removed himself from the race before his name was placed on the ballot.
BizPAC, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, checked the signatures of all of the candidates for council that year and found that Varela came up short of the 771 qualified signatures needed to make the ballot. According to BizPAC, Varela turned in 862 signatures and only 576, or 67%, were valid.
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