Russell Pearce recall. How it happened

(crossposted from AZIVN, but the article vanished when they converted to the new site! Of special interest here is The Utah Compact, a moderate, thoughtful platform on immigration endorsed by LDS which played at least a supporting role in the recall of the rabidly anti-immigration Pearce in Arizona.)

Make no mistake; this was an earthquake in Arizona politics. Combative senate president and author of the harsh immigration law Russell Pearce was recalled by political neophyte Jerry Lewis. There are now fault lines and fractures where once stood a political monolith. Pearce was once a chief deputy to Sheriff Joe Arpaio (and invented the noxious Tent City.) They were firm allies. Damage to one is damage to the other.

So, how did arguably the most powerful person in Arizona politics get taken down?
He got too extreme. His relentless campaign against immigrants was making national headlines, and they mostly were highly negative. Arizona was getting badly bashed in the press. This was bad for business. 60 Arizona CEOs signed a letter asking him to tone it down. Instead, he ignored them and ramped it up.

Lewis ran a clean, aboveboard campaign. Pearce got sleazy and tried to run a sham Latina candidate to siphon off votes from Lewis. It didn’t work and the resulting bad publicity hurt his campaign badly. Perhaps Pearce is unaware that there are many (quite legal) Latinos in Arizona who vote and who resent underhanded tactics aimed at them.

Lewis is allied with Maricopa County Commissioner Don Stapley, an Arpaio foe, who provided Lewis with substantial support. One of Arapaio’s main allies is now gone and his machine can be assumed to be badly damaged, despite his blustering that the only Jerry Lewis he knows is the comedian.

Unions and liberals got involved, pouring time and money into defeating Pearce. Voter mobilization is always crucial. Unions can bring in hundreds, sometimes thousands, of volunteers to call prospective voters and canvass neighborhoods. While Lewis is a conservative himself, he’s not Pearce, and that was good enough for the unions.

There was another battle going on here too. Some say this was a referendum on immigration reform and SB 1070, but it was more of a fight within the Mormon community and two political factions within the state. Both Pearce and Lewis are Mormon. The Mormon Church has been doing outreach to Hispanics. They say Pearce’s rabidly anti-immigration stance as hurting that effort. Plus, he attacked the church for not supporting SB 1070.

What many may not be aware of is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints supports a quite reasonable stance on immigration called The Utah Compact. It has five key points.

  • Federal solutions. Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries-not Utah and other countries.
  • Law enforcement. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
  • Families. Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families.
  • Economy. Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers.
  • A free society. Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors.

So, in the end, Pearce alienated his own base, both in business and religion. Someone more moderate replaced him.