Mesa voters got their say in a historical election that resulted in the recall of Republican Senator Russell Pearce, also known as the architect of SB 1070.
Pearce conceded defeat in a brief press conference in the City of Mesa surrounded by politicians, friends and controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“If being recalled is the cost of keeping one's promises, then so be it,” said Pearce.
His opponent, Republican Jerry Lewis, expressed surprise. “I think people were tired of the vitriolic politics,” he said.
Pearce will be required to step down immediately from office once the results are made official. His recall marks the success of a new strategy of political organizing in Arizona that brought together a diverse array of voters representing various religious and political affiliations.
“This is an exciting time for Arizona. We are (heading) in a new direction. We are saying, 'No' to the extreme divisive politics of Russell Pearce,” said Randy Parraz, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA), the group that started the recall more than 10 months ago.
CBA collected more than 10,000 valid signatures to force a special election to recall Pearce, who ascended to the role of Senate president after crafting one of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the country.
While SB 1070, which was partially enjoined in the courts, wasn’t the main focus of the recall, it did much to motivate voters to join the movement.
Pearce has been in office for 10 years. Like many of his constituents, he is a member of the Mormon Church and first gained national notoriety as an immigration hardliner for his support of Prop. 200, a ballot initiative denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants that was passed by state voters in 2004.
With no other issue on the ballot, election officials weren’t expecting a high turn out. But by Election Day, they said they had received more than 15,000 mail-in ballots from Mesa voters.
Around noon voters began to trickle in to the First United Methodist Church of Mesa voting center, an area with a high concentration of Latinos.
Long time Mesa resident José García, 64, said he voted for Lewis not because he disagreed with SB 1070 but because he supported Lewis’ stand on other policies.
“It’s not just that [Pearce] is discriminatory [against Latinos]. He’s bad for politics in Arizona,” he said.
Pearce supporters mostly criticized the
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