One of the competing groups trying to recall Senate President Russell Pearce has shifted its strategy and is focusing its efforts on Republican Mormons who are normally staunch Pearce supporters.
Arizonans for a Better Government will launch weekly forums featuring a conservative Republican — who is also Mormon — rather than focusing on Democrats or others who are already inclined not to support Pearce. The anti-Pearce group will begin passing out fliers this weekend and in April will ramp up efforts with lectures, said Dee Dee Blasé, a founder of Somos Republicans and member of Arizonans for a Better Government.
“The strategy that we’re using is we believe that in order to have a fully effective recall Russell Pearce effort, the change is going to have to come from within,” Blasé said. “And that’s from within the Mormon community in Mesa.”
Key to that is having Mormons convince other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she said. The forums will feature Daryl Williams, a trial lawyer who has held many church positions. His family roots include some of the first Mormons, and Blasé said he’ll argue that Pearce’s bills on immigration, education and other issues violate church teachings. She called him a “die-hard, very staunch Republican.”
The group’s new focus came out of desperation. It was the first recall effort to file paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State on January 27, but within days a second recall was started by Citizens for a Better Arizona. The second group was better funded and its efforts include paying people to gather signatures.
About half the volunteers with Arizonans for a Better Government shifted alliances with the ability to get paid, leaving the original group struggling.
A rift developed between Blasé and Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona, but Blasé said she didn’t want to throw in the towel. The development improved the original group’s plan, Blasé said. “It was a bittersweet blessing that he did what he did and it’s working out for the best,” she said.
Blasé said the group has raised less than $1,000 and has about 30 volunteers who’ve gathered 2,100 signatures. To force a recall, 7,756 valid signatures must be gathered,
which is 25 percent of ballots cast in the November election for Mesa’s Legislative District 18. Signatures must be submitted within 120 days of the campaign’s start.
Parraz said he was assembling his group before he heard of Blasé filing paperwork. He went ahead because he doubted the rival group’s ability.
“They don’t have much of a program. They don’t have much funding,” Parraz said. “I wish there were two efforts going on. There’s really just one.”
Parraz, a 2010 Democrat Senate candidate, amassed a war chest of more than $10,000, with 230 volunteers in the anti-Pearce effort. The group has posted paid signature gatherers at the downtown Mesa Library nearly every day. On a warm Friday afternoon, the gatherer was approached by Hilario Otero, who drove from Chandler to learn he wasn’t eligible to sign because he’s not in Pearce’s district. He said Pearce wasn’t for Arizona residents but didn’t offer specifics.
“He’s just trying to make points. He wants to be on top of the hill,” Otero said.
Rosalio Rojas of Mesa lives in Pearce’s district and signed the petition. He planned to return so his wife and two children could sign, too.
“All my family, we don’t want him,” he said.
Citizens for a Better Arizona has thousands of signatures and is meeting its collection goals, Parraz said. He wouldn’t offer a number.
“Russell Pearce is one of the most powerful men in the state,” he said. “It does us no good to broadcast what we have.”
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