State House of Representatives candidate and former Border Patrol agent Ephraim Cruz says he encouraged the mother of his child to sue him to establish his child-support responsibilities.
"I have never shirked my responsibilities to my child," Cruz said earlier this week after the Weekly reported on the lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General's Office on behalf of his son's mother.
One of seven Democrats seeking two House seats in southside Legislative District 29, Cruz, 35, initially declined to speak about the lawsuit. James Lamb, who is managing Cruz's campaign, attended an interview on Cruz's behalf last week and said that "we have no comment whatsoever on the personal lives of any candidate, whether Mr. Cruz or anyone else."
But after a report regarding the court record was published on the Weekly's new political Web site, ScrambleWatch.com, Cruz requested an interview to discuss the case so he could clarify certain points, including the fact that he took a paternity test within a week of the child's birth to establish that he was the father. He says the court-ordered test referenced in court documents in 2004 was a standard "procedural thing."
Lamb says he persuaded Cruz, who wanted to discuss the child-support lawsuit, to sidestep last week's interview: "Mr. Cruz had nothing to do with not showing up," Lamb says. "That was on me."
Pima County Superior Court records show that in February 2004, the Arizona Attorney General's Office filed suit on behalf of the mother of Cruz's son, whom the Weekly has chosen not to identify. (A recent phone number for the woman, who was working as a nurse at the time of the lawsuit against Cruz, has been disconnected.)
Cruz says he wanted the mother to file the suit against him so he could formalize his child-support responsibilities.
"I have always preferred to go through the court to have child enforcement, because I was no longer romantically involved with my child's mother," says Cruz, who adds that he had been making payments of between $400 and $500 a month before the court action was taken.
He said his records of those payments were in storage, but that he would attempt to recover them for the Weekly.
In June 2004, Judge Pro Tempore Karen Adam ordered Cruz to pay $775.25 a month in child support, which included $698 a month for current support and an additional $75 plus fees toward the $15,654 that the court determined Cruz owed in payments dating back to the child's birth. Cruz says he recently paid off the entire amount he owed in arrears, but had no records available to show that.
In August 2004, the Border Patrol was ordered to begin withholding child-support payments from Cruz's paycheck.
Cruz says he wanted to have his wages garnished, because "that was a reliable way to consistently ... make sure my child got his money every month. I was trying to pre-empt any future problems."
Less than a year later, in October 2005, Cruz requested that the court lower his monthly payments, because he had been suspended without pay from the Border Patrol following his federal indictment on charges of smuggling a Mexican national across the U.S. border. (Cruz would later be acquitted of the charges, which he said were in retaliation for a complaint he filed regarding the treatment of detainees in Border Patrol custody.)
In light of his suspension, Superior Court Judge Pro Tempore K.C. Stanford reduced Cruz's monthly child-support payment to $365 a month. As he found employment in 2006, his wages continued to be garnished, according to court records.
In April of this year, as he prepared to run for office, Cruz negotiated a $117 decrease in the monthly payment he had to provide his son, to $248 a month, court records show. Cruz says he asked to have the amount lowered, because he had been laid off from his job and had to make child-support payments out of his savings account.
"That's the way it goes," he says. "That's part of the process."
Cruz has been unable to find a new job, but says that his campaign for the Legislature hasn't affected his hunt for employment.
"I'm running for this office and also seeking employment," Cruz says.
Lamb says that Cruz's decision to reduce his monthly payment to his son while he runs for office shouldn't negatively reflect on the candidate. Cruz says he does not currently have contact with his son at the mother's request.
"I don't understand how requesting a reduction in any sense implies anything negative about my candidate's character," Lamb says. "He hasn't shirked responsibilities here. Asking for a reduction isn't like that. And I think anybody who has gone through a child-support situation and had to look at their finances and look at what they can provide in this kind of job market under Bushonomics would understand that there are times when, because of the finances alone and the vagaries of the job market, you have to make decisions."
Cruz faces incumbent Rep. Tom Prezelski, Eric Bustamante, Gil Guerra, Matt Heinz, Daniel Patterson and Patty Puig in the Sept. 2 Democratic primary.