For Ari­zona elec­tion, it’s all about the is­sue

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

He’s an Ari­zona state sen­a­tor who prob­a­bly wouldn’t be rec­og­nized on the street out­side of Mesa, yet the re­call elec­tion of Rus­sell Pearce is poised to be­come the big­gest race of the 2011 cy­cle.

Whether Mr. Pearce should be able to keep the seat he won in Novem­ber isn’t re­ally the point. This race is all about sub­text. It’s bor­der se­cu­rity ver­sus im­mi­gra­tion ac­tivists. It’s guns ver­sus but­ter. It’s the power of the state to en­force its laws ver­sus the au­thor­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“Rus­sell Pearce is the poster boy, but the real is­sue is whether a state can take these prob­lems and deal with them them­selves when the fed­eral gov­ern­ment won’t,” said for­mer U.S. Rep. Tom Tan­credo of Colorado, a for­mer Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who is firmly in the Pearce camp.

The re­call ef­fort is part of the fall­out from Ari­zona Se­nate Bill 1070, the 2010 law that re­quires any­one de­tained by po­lice and sus­pected of be­ing an il­le­gal im­mi­grant to show doc­u­men­ta­tion. The bill, signed into law last year but sus­pended by the courts in the face of legal chal­lenges, was spon­sored by Mr. Pearce.

Crit­ics say the law en­cour­ages racial pro­fil­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion against His­pan­ics. Even so, sev­eral states have in­tro­duced copy­cat mea­sures since the Ari­zona law was en­acted, ar­gu­ing that state ac­tion is needed to con­trol il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in the ab­sence of strong fed­eral en­force­ment.

Na­tional groups on both sides of the is­sue are ex­pected to pour cash into the Nov. 8 re­call elec­tion. Mr. Tan­credo’s group, Team Amer­ica, held a fundraiser for Mr. Pearce in June, even be­fore the ef­fort had qual­i­fied for the bal­lot.

“This race is about mak­ing a state­ment,” said Michael O’Neil, an Ari­zona po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and pres­i­dent of O’Neil Re­search in Tempe. “It could be a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar state Se­nate race on both sides. By a fac­tor of 10 or 100, it’s go­ing to be the most ex­pen­sive state leg­isla­tive race in state his­tory.”

The cam­paign al­ready has made state his­tory. No law­maker in Ari­zona has ever been sub­ject to a re­call elec­tion, mainly be­cause of the tim­ing in­volved.

State rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors serve two-year terms. In the time it takes for a politi­cian to do some­thing that vot­ers might con­sider wor­thy of re­call, and then have or­ga­niz­ers gather enough sig­na­tures to force a re­call, and then have the sig­na­tures cer­ti­fied as au­then­tic, and then have the gov­er­nor place the re­call on the bal­lot [. . . ], it’s usu­ally time for the law­maker to face re-elec­tion on the reg­u­lar cy­cle.

Cit­i­zens for a Bet­ter Ari­zona, the group push­ing the re­call ef- fort, solved this prob­lem by launch­ing its pe­ti­tion drive in Jan­uary, about the same time that Mr. Pearce was be­ing sworn into of­fice af­ter win­ning elec­tion in Novem­ber.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion sub­mit­ted more than 17,000 sig­na­tures. Of those, 10,365 were de­clared valid July 8 by state and county of­fi­cials. The pe­ti­tions had about 3,000 more sig­na­tures than nec­es­sary to force the re­call and were sub­mit­ted barely in time to qual­ify the re­call for the Nov. 8 bal­lot.

“We all have our lim­its and Sen­a­tor Pearce’s be­hav­ior has clearly demon­strated that he is in­deed too ex­treme for Mesa and Ari­zona,” the group said in a re­cent state­ment.

Pearce at­tor­ney Lisa Hauser filed a law­suit July 18 chal­leng­ing the va­lid­ity of the sig­na­tures in Mari­copa County Su­pe­rior Court, al­leg­ing mis­takes on the pe­ti­tion forms. A spokesman for the re­call camp called the law­suit des­per­ate.

“It’s a very, very des­per­ate at­tempt by a des­per­ate man who wants to avoid an elec­tion he can’t win,” or­ga­nizer Chad Snow As a Mor­mon Repub­li­can, he fits the district’s de­mo­graphic pro­file.

His back­ing of Se­nate Bill 1070 may have earned him the cen­sure of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Jus­tice Depart­ment is among those chal­leng­ing the law, but the law re­mains pop­u­lar in Ari­zona. Gov. Jan Brewer’s de­ci­sion to sign the bill last year

It’s bor­der se­cu­rity ver­sus im­mi­gra­tion ac­tivists. It’s guns ver­sus but­ter. It’s the power of the state to en­force its laws ver­sus the au­thor­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. “Rus­sell Pearce is the poster boy, but the real is­sue is whether a state can take these prob­lems and deal with them them­selves when the fed­eral gov­ern­ment won’t,” said for­mer U.S. Rep. Tom Tan­credo of Colorado, a for­mer Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who is firmly in the Pearce camp.

told the Ari­zona Repub­lic news­pa­per. “We made sure we were com­ply­ing at ev­ery step be­cause we kind of an­tic­i­pated some­thing like this.”

Ari­zona po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts tend to give Mr. Pearce a bet­ter than av­er­age chance of keep­ing his seat, for sev­eral rea­sons. He has served as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive or sen­a­tor from District 18 since 2000 with­out ever los­ing a race. is widely viewed as the move that won her the Repub­li­can pri­mary and al­lowed her to coast to re-elec­tion.

“Clearly she was in fa­vor of 1070 and clearly it helped her,” said Ed Phillips, a spokesman for Cit­i­zens Who Op­pose the Pearce Re­call.

Mrs. Brewer also was tar­geted for re­call this year, but ob­tain­ing the num­ber of sig­na­tures re- quired to re­call a statewide fig­ure proved too dif­fi­cult.

“It was the same peo­ple, the open-borders type,” Mr. Phillips said. “The dif­fer­ence is, he’s a smaller tar­get.”

Weigh­ing against Mr. Pearce is that he won’t be the Repub­li­can Party nom­i­nee be­cause none of the can­di­dates on the re­call bal­lot will go through a pri­mary. The ideal sce­nario for the an­tiPearce side would be one op­po­nent, prefer­ably an­other Mor­mon Repub­li­can, Mr. O’Neil said.

No can­di­date has filed to run against Mr. Pearce, but ru­mor has it that he could be chal­lenged by Repub­li­can Jerry Lewis, a charter-schools ex­ec­u­tive who is a leader of the lo­cal Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints. Mr. Lewis re­leased a state­ment July 14 say­ing he would make a de­ci­sion in the com­ing week.

“If [Mr. Pearce] gets sev­eral op­po­nents, game over. He could win with 40 per­cent of the vote,” Mr. O’Neil said. “The Democrats have to be smart and stay out. They can’t win in this district.”

What­ever the re­sult, an­a­lysts pre­dict the Pearce elec­tion will in­ject a large dose of ex­cite­ment into the typ­i­cally hum­drum offyear elec­tion cy­cle.

“This will be a big race,” Mr. Tan­credo said. “He’s a na­tion­wide leader on im­mi­gra­tion is­sues. There’s go­ing to be money com­ing in from all over the place.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Com­ing right on in: Two men il­le­gally cross the bor­der fence sep­a­rat­ing No­gales, Ariz., and No­gales, Sonora, Mex­ico in 2010.

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