Im­mi­gra­tion al­lies Ar­paio, Pearce bat­tle for votes

The Washington Times Daily - - From Page One - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Two bat­tle-scarred vet­er­ans of Ari­zona’s of­ten vi­cious wars over im­mi­gra­tion and the bor­der are draw­ing fresh fire as they pre­pare for what may be their last cam­paign to­gether.

Rus­sell Pearce, the 64-year-old for­mer state Se­nate pres­i­dent who wrote the state’s highly po­lar­iz­ing anti-il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion law, con­firmed this week that he would seek to re­gain his leg­isla­tive seat af­ter los­ing a re­call fight in Novem­ber, telling sup­port­ers, “It’s been a nice va­ca­tion, but it’s time to get back to work.”

Stand­ing with him on­stage at the Red Moun­tain Tea Party meet­ing in Mesa was 79-year-old Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio, who has earned a na­tional rep­u­ta­tion with his tough meth­ods deal­ing with il­le­gal im­mi­grants and is fac­ing a tough re-elec­tion fight for a sixth term as Mari­copa County sher­iff.

Just out­side the packed au­di­to­rium was the leader of the op­po­si­tion, Cit­i­zens for a Bet­ter Ari­zona’s Randy Par­raz, who plans to spend the next nine months en­sur­ing that both Repub­li­cans head off to un­wanted re­tire­ments in Novem­ber.

“Our ef­forts are very much con­nected,” said Mr. Par­raz. “Our goal is to tie Sher­iff Ar­paio to Rus­sell Pearce. While we’re knock­ing on doors, telling peo­ple about Pearce, we can also tell them about Sher­iff Ar­paio.”

Even though Mr. Pearce, best known as the au­thor of Se­nate Bill 1070, Ari­zona’s tough anti-il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion law that has been chal­lenged by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in court, lost his re­call elec­tion just four months ago, he faces a sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved po­lit­i­cal land­scape for the 2012 race.

In the re­call, he faced just one op­po­nent, Jerry Lewis, a rel­a­tively un­known fel­low Mor­mon Re­pub­li­can who en­joyed strong sup­port from Democrats and in­de­pen­dents de­ter­mined to oust Mr. Pearce. This year, Mr. Pearce, who now heads a group called Ban Amnesty Now, com­petes first in the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary to be held Aug. 28, in which only Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents may vote.

The re­dis­trict­ing process placed Mr. Pearce in a staunchly con­ser­va­tive Mesa-based dis­trict that doesn’t in­clude Mr. Lewis. The win­ner of the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary is widely ex­pected to coast to vic­tory in the gen­eral elec­tion.

“Who­ever is run­ning in this new dis­trict, they are go­ing to have a fair fight this time. This won’t be a pri­mary elec­tion where the other party comes in and con­trols it. And as long as there is a fair fight, Rus­sell Pearce is go­ing to win,” Se­nate GOP Ma­jor­ity Leader Andy Biggs told the Ari­zona Repub­lic news­pa­per.

So far Mr. Pearce has one Re­pub­li­can op­po­nent, In­ter­net re­tailer Bob Wors­ley, the founder of Sky­mall who an­nounced his can­di­dacy on­line Mon­day. Re­pub­li­can state Sen. Rich Cran­dall, a mod­er­ate who also re­sides in the dis­trict, an­nounced this week he wouldn’t run and threw his sup­port be­hind Mr. Wors­ley.

There’s no love lost be­tween Mr. Cran­dall and Mr. Pearce, who some­times found them­selves on op­po­site ends of the il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion de­bate. Both Mr. Cran­dall and Mr. Wors­ley are seen as mod­er­ate con­ser­va­tives by com­par­i­son, although “you can be pretty con­ser­va­tive and still be less con­ser­va­tive than Rus­sell Pearce,” said Mr. Par­raz.

Mr. Cran­dall said he was pass­ing on the race in part be­cause of what he said were tough at­tacks on Mr. Lewis when he chal­lenged Mr. Pearce in the re­call fight.

“Happy to an­nounce I’m throw­ing my sup­port be­hind Bob Wors­ley as well as my en­tire cam­paign or­ga­niz. Mesa is lucky to have a win­ner step up,” Mr. Cran­dall said in a post on Twit­ter an­nounc­ing he would not run.

For Mr. Pearce, hav­ing two pri­mary foes to split the mod­er­ate vote would have been far prefer­able, which is why Mr. Par­raz cor­rectly pre­dicted that Mr. Cran­dall would not run again.

“Bob Wors­ley would not have an­nounced his can­di­dacy if Rich Cran­dall were go­ing to run,” said Mr. Par­raz. “If I were a sit­ting state se­na­tor and two peo­ple an­nounced in my dis­trict on the same day, I’d want to know what was go­ing on. But I don’t see him fight­ing for his seat.”

Mr. Pearce’s strat­egy so far ap­pears to be em­pha­siz­ing the econ­omy, rather than il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, his sig­na­ture is­sue. Af­ter the tea party meet­ing, he told lo­cal re­porters that his cam­paign fo­cus would be “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“I like Rus­sell Pearce’s chances in a Re­pub­li­can pri­mary,” said Re­pub­li­can po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant Ja­son Rose. “I’m al­ready start­ing to see com­ments from Pearce — he’s talk­ing about jobs and the econ­omy. Not that he’ll ever shy away from im­mi­gra­tion, but he’s re­mind­ing peo­ple that he’s a Re­pub­li­can for lots of other rea­sons.”

Tar­get­ing the sher­iff

In the Mari­copa County sher­iff’s race, three other can­di­dates — two Democrats and an In­de­pen­dent — have in­di­cated they will chal­lenge Mr. Ar­paio, who so far has not drawn a Re­pub­li­can chal­lenger. If the other can­di­dates are able to gather enough sig­na­tures to qual­ify for the bal­lot by May 31, a crowded race would aid the sher­iff by split­ting the anti-ar­paio vote.

The any­body-but-ar­paio cam­paign has re­sponded by try­ing to cull the field. The Na­tional Te­quila Party Move­ment, a women’s po­lit­i­cal group that calls it­self an ad­vo­cate for “com­pas­sion to­wards im­mi­grants and le­gal im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” sent out a blis­ter­ing press re­lease Mon­day urg­ing Demo­crat Paul Pen­zone, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer, to with­draw, say­ing he “needs to get out of the race since he will spoil the vote.”

The group en­dorsed in­de­pen­dent can­di­date and po­lice veteran Mike Stauf­fer. “Mike Stauf­fer is the only one who can re­place Joe Ar­paio and ev­ery­body knows that Stauf­fer filed to run against Ar­paio way be­fore Pen­zone did,” said the group’s press re­lease.

Mean­while, Mr. Par­raz says he fa­vors Mr. Pen­zone, if only be­cause the Demo­crat ap­pears to have the nec­es­sary re­sources.

“Pen­zone is do­ing well rais­ing money. The other Demo­crat and in­de­pen­dent, not so much,” said Mr. Par­raz. “If we all share an in­ter­est in get­ting rid of Ar­paio, there’s no sense in hav­ing an In­de­pen­dent can­di­date. What I hope we can do is share in­for­ma­tion so that he can make a decision and be part of a team.”

Money may be the key fac­tor in de­feat­ing Mr. Ar­paio, whose na­tional rep­u­ta­tion as “Amer­ica’s tough­est sher­iff” has helped him raise a mas­sive war chest that tops $4 mil­lion. The sher­iff has at­tracted fresh scru­tiny re­cently for his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the va­lid­ity of Pres­i­dent Obama’s birth certificate, but he has also won ku­dos for his work against an­i­mal cru­elty, which can be his ace in the hole with un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers.

“In the last four years there’s been a lot of tur­bu­lence,” said Mr. Rose. “But with $4 [mil­lion] to $6 mil­lion, that’s a mighty big plane to help you get through it. Other can­di­dates will pick on his deficits, but he’ll have the re­sources to pum­mel the deficits of any other can­di­date.”

EAST VAL­LEY TRI­BUNE VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mari­copa County Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio (left) and Rus­sell Pearce at­tend an Ari­zona Red Moun­tain Tea Party meet­ing in Mesa, Ariz., on Mon­day. The sher­iff is in a tough fight to stay in of­fice and Mr. Pearce is try­ing to re­gain a seat in his state’s Se­nate.

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