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After Russell Pearce ouster, Arizona may alter recall process

February 15, 2012 |  6:30 am

Russell pearce recall
Nothing rattles a bunch of politicians like the ouster of one of their own. So a few months after Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce was booted from his Phoenix-area seat, his former colleagues introduced a bill that would tinker with the recall process.

An immigration hard-liner who wrote SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Pearce was defeated in November by Jerry Lewis, a fellow Republican who advocated working alongside the federal government to curb illegal border crossings.

Pearce probably would have crushed Lewis in a primary, which tends to attract fewer and more politically fervent voters. “The ideologues all go to the polls and they elect ideologues -- the Russell Pearces of the world,” Arizona political scientist Bruce Merrill told The Times after the election.

But in a recall, Democrats and independents can weigh in, giving a boost to more moderate candidates. That’s why Pearce -- long considered Arizona's most powerful politician -- equated Lewis’ victory with “going through the backdoor.”

Under the bill, the recall process would shift substantially, the Arizona Republic reported. The legislation, which survived a state Senate committee vote this week, would add party primaries to recall elections.

If that system had been in place during the Pearce recall, only Republicans would have cast ballots in the GOP primary. And because there were only two candidates vying for the seat, no runoff would have been required. 


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Photo: GOP state Sen. Russell Pearce of Arizona, the force behind the state's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, speaks at a news conference in November as results in the vote to recall him come in. Credit: Joshua Lott/Reuters