Pearce 'ready for an election' as county confirms signatures for recall - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Pearce 'ready for an election' as county confirms signatures for recall

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Posted: Friday, July 8, 2011 10:07 am | Updated: 3:42 pm, Sat Dec 22, 2012.

State election officials announced Friday there are more than enough signatures to force Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, to defend his seat.

Elections Director Amy Bjelland formally certified there are10,365 valid signatures on the petitions. Only 7,756 were needed.

Gov. Jan Brewer now has 15 days to call the election, something she cannot legally refuse to do. That means the vote will come on the next available election date, Nov. 8, unless there is a legal challenge.

Attorney Lisa Hauser, who represents Pearce, said she is reviewing the more than 1,200 pages of documentation produced by Maricopa County in its review of the signatures which explain how county workers decided whether each signature was valid or not. Yvonne Reed, spokeswoman for the county elections department, said that paperwork is n anticipation of a possible legal challenge to what would be Arizona's first-ever recall of a state elected official.

Hauser said she will present Pearce with various legal theories on how the certification might be challenged.

But Pearce told Capitol Media Services he has no plans to take the issue to court.

"I'm ready for an election,'' he said, citing his 16-0 record in primary and general elections to date.

Once the governor calls the election, challengers will have until Sept. 9 to submit nominating petitions with at least 621 valid signatures. Pearce, by virtue of his incumbency, does not need to do that.

Unlike regular elections, though, this is a single vote open to all registered voters of all parties or no party at all, with no primary to narrow the field. Whoever gets the most votes would serve out the balance of the term through the end of 2012.

Randy Parraz, one of the recall organizers, said there is no one at this point ready to take on Pearce.

Pearce said the leaders of the efforts are "outsiders, ... Democrats, open-border folks,'' people who he said do not represent the majority of those who live in his district.

Still, he conceded, his popularity is far from unanimous, as reflected in the large number of signatures gathered to oust him, even with the use of paid circulators.

"I know they've induced some good people'' to sign, he said. "I know there are some good people who just disagree with what I'm doing.''

Pearce said, though, he remains convinced that most district residents support his positions on issues ranging from his support of laws to make it easier for people to carry weapons to backing measures to place new restrictions on abortion.

But it has been his multi-year push for new laws aimed at illegal immigrants that has made him a lightning rod -- and ultimately became the impetus for the recall.

Pearce was the force behind the 2004 initiative to deny certain public benefits to those not in this country legally and to impose new identification requirements to vote. At that time, Pearce was out of step with many politicians, including from his own party, who urged voters to kill the measure.

It passed by a wide margin.

Since that vote, Pearce has found more support among GOP lawmakers to change state laws through the legislative process.

He crafted legislation to allow a judge to suspend or revoke the business licenses and permits of any firm found guilty of knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The legality of that law was upheld earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And Pearce was the prime mover behind a comprehensive measure last year designed to give police more power to detain and arrest suspected illegal immigrants.

Key provisions of the law have been placed on hold by a federal judge until there can be a full trial on their legality. But the measure gained national attention, leading to calls to boycott the state.

"These folks are mad because I'm doing what I said I would do, successfully,'' he said.

Parraz said it would be a mistake to dismiss the recall as simply an objection to Pearce's stance on illegal immigration.

He said those who were involved were concerned about state policies that cut education funding and reduced health care for the poor, policies that Pearce, as Senate president, was instrumental in crafting.

"Immigration, to be truthful, has not been the driving force in this effort,'' Parraz said. "Most of our volunteers are white people over 50.''

Parraz acknowledged that neither he nor Chad Snow, as leaders of the effort, live in Mesa. And Parraz's political background was a run for U.S. Senate as a Democrat.

But Parraz said both of them are residents of Arizona and affected by the policies of the Legislature. Anyway, he continued, it's not like he and Snow, by themselves, could make the recall happen.

"Randy and Chad didn't sign the petition,'' Parraz said. "All we did is create the opportunity.''

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