Mesa charter school executive Jerry Lewis became the first challenger to submit signatures that would get him on the ballot in the recall election targeting state Senate President Russell Pearce.
Lewis filed 1,187 signatures Thursday morning, about double the 621 valid signatures required for the Nov. 8 election. Lewis spoke briefly before filing his papers with the Arizona Secretary of State and offered mixed reviews of Pearce's signature issue, SB 1070.
Lewis called it "a good start."
"SB 1070, I think, did a lot to heighten our awareness of immigration needs and it's a start," Lewis said.
But Lewis said the same thing about the Utah Compact, which residents of that state crafted in response to what they saw as intolerance in the immigration debate. The compact calls for a more civil tone in the discussion but is seen by some as soft on illegal immigration.
Lewis said a wider spectrum of people needs to work on immigration policies, including the federal government.
"We need to secure the borders. We definitely need to bring all the stakeholders involved in this process or this issue to the table to work out a solution that will not be debated in the courts for the next 20 years," he said.
He wouldn't say how he would have voted on the bill, which makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to be in Arizona. Lewis said he's "a practical person. That's a hypothetical situation."
Lewis said he wants to focus on the economy while also addressing education and health care. He said he'd bring a new leadership style that would represent constituents' values.
Clint Smith, one of the campaign co-chairs, said the group planned to raise $100,000 for the election and to be heavily outspent by Pearce and his supporters. So far, the campaign has raised funds by having Lewis and a few others making phone calls.
"Mostly it's going to be a very personal thing, just like the rest of the campaign is going to be very grassroots," Smith said.
Lewis is a Republican with no prior political experience. He's been active with the Boy Scouts and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He is one of three potential candidates to date who could challenge Pearce, a Republican. Mesa resident Olivia Cortes and attorney Michael Kielsky have also filed paperwork to begin campaigns. The deadline to file and submit signatures to the Secretary of State is Sept. 9.