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Arizona recall election narrows to Russell Pearce and Jerry Lewis

October 7, 2011 |  1:09 pm

Jerry Lewis and Russell Pearce
After watching the political theatrics this week in an Arizona recall election, it was hard not to agree with Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini.

He observed that, in the Grand Canyon State, “strange is the new normal.”

State Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican author of the tough anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070, is facing a recall election in November. He had been slated to face two opponents: Jerry Lewis and Olivia Cortes.

But recall backers insisted that Cortes was a sham candidate recruited by Pearce supporters to peel off Latino votes from Lewis. They challenged her candidacy in court. Cortes testified that she didn’t know who paid for her signature-gatherers or designed her website, according to the Arizona Republic. In fact, she didn’t really do any campaigning.

Earlier this week, a judge agreed that Pearce supporters drafted Cortes in an effort to split votes, but that Cortes could stay on the ballot because she hadn’t done anything wrong.

Then things got strange. OK, even stranger.

Pearce opponents soon asked the judge for another hearing, saying they now had proof directly linking Cortes to Pearce campaign officials, the Republic said. The judge scheduled a hearing for Friday.

On Thursday, however, Cortes dropped out of the race, blaming “constant intimidation and harassment,” the paper said.

One of the attorneys challenging her candidacy had a different take.

"The Pearce forces did not want this hearing to go forward tomorrow," Tom Ryan told the Phoenix New Times, "for the same reason I don't order steak at an East Valley Denny's. In both instances, we know it won't go down well.”

Cortes’ name will still appear on ballots, which have already been printed. And though voters will be reminded at the polls that she is no longer a candidate, Cortes still may siphon votes from Lewis.

If that happens, scoffed the Phoenix New Times, “Cortes' sham candidacy would have done what it was intended to do: push Pearce back into office in one of the sleaziest acts of voter manipulation we've ever seen."

RELATED:

Arizona's us-versus-them brand of politics 

Russell Pearce: Arizona's relentless conservative voice

Olivia Cortes to stay on Russell Pearce recall ballot in Arizona

--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: Republicans Jerry Lewis, left, and Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce are shown during a debate hosted by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. Credit: Tim Hacker / East Valley Tribune

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