Lewis: Focus of campaign would be that he's not Pearce - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Lewis: Focus of campaign would be that he's not Pearce

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Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 1:40 pm | Updated: 10:29 am, Thu Aug 18, 2011.

Charter school executive Jerry Lewis is poised to enter the race to oust Senate President Russell Pearce from his seat.

But at this point, the central theme of his campaign is that he is not Pearce - and that he would focus on more than just illegal immigration that has given the incumbent national name recognition.

But Pearce said while he has focused on border security, he has a record of cutting taxes and reducing regulation to stimulate the economy. More to the point, the man who has represented the west Mesa district since the 2000 election said residents will take his record over anyone else's campaign promises.

"They do know who I am," he said.

Lewis has scheduled a formal announcement for Wednesday morning at The Wright House, a 1930s Mesa home that has been converted into a site for parties and weddings.

During an interview with Capitol Media Services, about the only thing Lewis would commit to is that he would seek donations for a race and not depend on public financing. That move may make sense: A candidate would get only $21,533 in public dollars; Pearce is not only raising money with help from lobbyists but will have the benefit of the help of a national political action committee organized by former Congressman Tom Tancredo.

Pretty much everything else in terms of specifics on where Lewis stands on significant issues is up in the air.

Abortion?

"This is certainly a decision that should not be taken lightly," Lewis said. "I believe we have to protect life." But he also said "we have to respect people who may be raped or may be victims of incest."

Does that mean he would support a ban on abortion except in cases of rape or incest?

"I would be very, very open to that type of legislation," he responded.

Lewis is no more specific on whether the state should give tax dollars to parents to send their children to private or parochial schools.

"I would like to hear all sides of the issue and, using the leadership abilities that I have, formulate an opinion that I believe that we can all live with," he said. Lewis did say vouchers might make sense "if that was in the best interests of the people and the students of Arizona."

On the subject of gun regulation, Lewis said he believes in the right of people to bear arms. But he would not say whether he believes guns should be allowed on the campuses of universities and community colleges.

"I believe that we need to look at all of the issues involved and make sure that we bring a solution that promotes the welfare of all stakeholders involved in such a weighty decision," Lewis said.

And what about guns on the campuses of public district and charter schools?

"We need to have leadership that is open to all the ideas so we can have better ideas put forth, and we can debate those ideas in an open and respectful way," he said, similar to the process that resulted in the U.S. Constitution, where Lewis said all ideas were considered and no one was "bullied."

Lewis did admit to voting last year for the temporary one-cent hike in the state sales tax - as did about two out of every three Arizonans who went to the polls, a tax hike that Pearce opposed. But Lewis stopped short of saying he might support future tax hikes if the state is still running a deficit when the current levy ends in 2013.

So why should someone vote for him?

Lewis said he has been approached by district residents seeking "a fresh start." More to the point, he said, they want attention paid to issues beyond illegal immigration.

"The voters of District 18 seem to be saying that we probably have not spent enough time and effort on the economy, on jobs creation, on education issues, on making Arizona academically a leader," he said.

Pearce told Capitol Media Services that efforts to paint him as a one-issue candidate will fail.

"Do I believe in securing the border? Yes," he said. "We owe it, based on the blood of the revolution, to never support those who break our laws."

But Pearce said he is "famous for working on economic recovery."

He specifically cited the package of tax cuts approved earlier this year, saying that when fully implemented it will be the largest tax reduction in state history, a reduction he believes will encourage new business growth. And Pearce said "nobody has worked harder for less regulation" of business.

Pearce also said he has a record of supporting vouchers for parents to use tax dollars for private and parochial schools, an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association and describes himself as "100 percent pro life."

One thing Pearce intends to use in his campaign is the fact that this is not a regular election where those who disagree with him have the opportunity to convince voters to choose someone else, but a special mid-term recall - and a recall where the organizers, while getting more than 10,000 valid signatures of residents, did not even live in the district.

"Good people can disagree," he said. "But don't overturn a legitimate election."

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