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Author of Arizona's illegal immigration law to face recall election

September 13, 2011 |  5:22 pm

Russell Pearce

An Arizona lawmaker best known as the author of a controversial law that cracks down on illegal immigrants will face a recall election Nov. 8. 

In a ruling Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for the recall election of Russell Pearce, the president of the state Senate and arguably the most powerful politician in the Arizona.

Supporters describe Pearce, a former sheriff's deputy, as a principled lawmaker trying to protect his state; critics say he panders to racism and demonizes immigrants, legal and illegal.

The justices held a closed-door conference on an appeal from a Pearce supporter who alleged that because of flawed paperwork, the recall drive did not amass enough valid voter signatures to force the recall election in the lawmaker’s district in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.

The court found the recall petition to be constitutional, affirming an August decision by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Hugh Hegyi, said Jennifer Liewer, a court spokeswoman, in an interview.

Pearce, a Republican known nationally for writing last year's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, will now face two other Republicans, Jerry Lewis and Olivia Cortes, in the recall election.

Pearce will automatically be on the ballot, but each of his rivals had to submit signatures from 621 registered voters in the district. Both have submitted the required number of signatures, but challenges of the validity of the signatures can be filed up until Sept. 23.

Pearce was reelected in November with 57% of the vote and became president of the Senate, but three weeks after the legislative session started, activist began the push for a recall.

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-- Stephen Ceasar

Photo: Russell Pearce speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington in December, 2010. Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh.

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