SIERRA VISTA — Three official candidates are vying for three at-large city council seats in the general election this November, but one of the individuals running for office has run afoul of the law and faces being removed from the ballot if convicted, city officials said.
The three candidates are veteran Sierra Vista councilwoman Rachel Gray, who is the current Mayor Pro Tem, Angelica Landry and Mathew Haupt. Gray’s term is expiring and she’s running for re-election. City councilwomen Gwen Calhoun and Kristine Wolfe, whose terms also are up, have decided not to seek another term.
The 45-year-old Haupt, often present at city council meetings as a member of the public, filed his statement of interest to run for the council in February, but in April, he was indicted by a grand jury on 10 counts of drug-related offenses, court records show.
The charges include production of marijuana, offer to sell or transfer marijuana, manufacture of a dangerous drug, offer to sell or transfer a dangerous drug and possession of a dangerous drug.
Haupt said in an email to the Herald/Review that he believed he could still run for City Council even if he were “branded a felon.”
“Since before any of this happened, I felt a calling to get involved in my community. So many people don’t have the courage to make their voices heard or think their voice doesn’t matter,” Haupt said.
“I believe the cause of our pain and dis-ease is not a virus, it is the way we treat each other. I think there’s room for compassion at all levels of politics. Though I was facing charges, I had to proceed as if my life was not over. I thought even if I ended up being branded a felon that I could still run for City Council; after all, that doesn’t stop someone from running for U.S. Congress.”
“I didn’t find out until after I achieved the required number of signatures that Arizona prohibits it. I filed my nomination package in the spirit of pure hope. I will always believe in miracles. Thank you to all the wonderful people who have shown me support. Keep me in your prayers, as you are in mine.”
Assistant Cochise County Attorney Terisha Driggs said the state has offered Haupt a deal that involves Haupt pleading guilty to one felony charge — attempted possession of a dangerous drug (mushrooms containing Psilocyn and/or Psilocybin). Driggs said Haupt was not arrested.
“I took the case directly to grand jury and he was summoned in for his arraignment,” Driggs said in an email to the Herald/Review.
Driggs said Haupt has until July 27 to accept or reject the plea offer. If Haupt decides to enter a plea, he’ll be automatically convicted of that felony.
Haupt said that his case is still ongoing.
“The settlement of my case is still in progress. Though federally illegal, popular ideas about plant medicine are replacing discriminatory fixed mindsets,” Haupt stated.
“Our conference was so emotional for both sides that it was continued. I pray every day that they will accept a plea which might allow me to rebuild my life and maybe even to represent the beautiful people of our wonderful city, should I be so blessed. This decision will be made by me and my family with advice of counsel when the time comes.”
Sierra Vista City Clerk Jill Adams said if Haupt is convicted of a felony, then his campaign “may be terminated.”
If the ballot for the city’s election has not been printed, then Adams said she would notify the county’s elections office to remove Haupt’s name. If Haupt decides not to enter a plea, discussions between his attorney and prosecutors could continue toward a settlement, or Haupt may opt to go to trial on the counts he’s charged with.
His campaign could continue if there is no conviction of a crime.
If Haupt’s name doesn’t appear on the ballot and there are only two candidates and three open city council seats, a write-in candidate could run, Adams said. The deadline to become a write-in candidate is Sept. 24.
If there are no write-in candidates, the City Council must appoint someone to fill the vacant seat on the panel, Adams said. The process is almost like a job interview, Adams said, with council members putting the word out to the community and then questioning those interested.
The process is usually done in an executive session. Once a person is chosen by council members, the person is appointed by resolution, Adams said.
According to city ordinance the term on the council would be the following: “Appointment for the unexpired term, provided said period is less than the last two years of the term of the vacant seat; and appointment until the next regularly scheduled council election, if the vacancy occurs more than 30 days before the nomination petition deadline...”
Adams said that anyone who wants to challenge the candidacy of Gray, Landry or Haupt, can do so until July 20. The city does not hold a primary election. The general election is Nov. 3.