There is one hot-button issue that will likely overshadow all others in the upcoming District 18 races: immigration.
That’s because Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who is considered one of the state’s staunchest opponents of illegal immigration, is up for reelection this fall, along with his fellow Republicans, Rep. Mark Anderson and Sen. Karen Johnson.
While all three share similar views on immigration, Johnson and Anderson agree that Pearce has emerged as somewhat of a spokesman for the topic. Pearce drafted the English-only initiative that will appear on the November ballot, and he is very outspoken on immigration, which he refers to as “an invasion.”
“It will be the number one issue,” Pearce said of his reelection campaign. “It’s the No. 1 crisis in America,” he noted, adding that it’s also a crisis in his own district.
“South Mesa is Mexico anymore,” he said. “It’s not even the Mesa we grew up in.”
His stance could make for an interesting race for challengers Joe Brown, a Republican, and Tammie Pursley, a Democrat.
Brown and his competitor for the Republican primary, Johnson, share similar views on immigration. This could make it hard for him to stand out from his opponent, but he is optimistic and hopes he can bring other issues to the forefront, such as legislative reform.
“I don’t have any problem with lobbyists, but I think there are too many,” Brown said. “They are overwhelming the Legislature.”
If Brown loses the primary, it will be a clear-cut win for Johnson, who is not facing any Democratic opposition for Senate in the general election.
But Pearce and Anderson will face opposition in the general election from Pursley, a teacher and political newcomer.
Pursley’s view on immigration differs from Pearce’s and Anderson’s. While she believes in securing the borders, she said it should be funded by the federal government.
She also said she disagrees with how some of her Republican opponents have characterized Hispanics.
Aside from immigration, other topics that are likely to pop up in the District 18 races include public education, health care, reforming Child Protective Services and regional transportation.
REPUBLICANS Mark Anderson
House 1995-2002, Senate 2003-04, House since 2005. Real estate salesman, former marketing business owner and former executive director of a nonprofit.
Issues: Wants to secure the border but prefers using a radar system as opposed to building a fence to stop illegal immigration. Feels that students should have individualized educational programs to progress at their own pace.
Joe Brown Age: 54
Loan officer for First Finance, music teacher and retail and wholesale music.
Issues: Wants to reduce the influence lobbyists have on politicians. Wants a border fence and English as the official language. Karen Johnson
House 1997-2004, Senate since 2005. Former liaison for Maricopa County sheriff, former office assistant for Rep. David Schweiker, former office manager for Maricopa County Supervisor Tom Freestone, former assistant to Gov. Evan Mecham, was state director for Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign, auto and casualty insurance agent.
Issues: Reforming Child Protective Services to provide better training for case workers. Favors banning nearly all abortions. Supports the English-only initiative and thinks Arizona should build a border fence. Russell K. Pearce
House member since 2001; former chief deputy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office; former director of the Motor Vehicle Division and former director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Issues: Wants sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants. Believes in fighting illegal immigration at the local level. Supports the English-only initiative, which he drafted, and supports the amendment to ban gay marriage.
Teacher at Mesa Junior High, former accounting worker for Motorola and Empire Southwest.
Issues: Wants equitable funding for public schools. Supports secure borders but believes that the federal government should take the lead in border security. Opposes building a fence and vigilante groups.