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Maricopa recall signal a change in Arizona politics

by Alan Markow, published

There’s a new level of political theater that’s premiered in America, and it’s not primary season – it’s recall season.  While the national focus has been on the recall of six Wisconsin Republican state legislators (two of whom were replaced by Democrats), there has been little national coverage thus far of the movement to recall Arizona State Senate President and anti-immigration activist Russell Pearce.

The recall election, which has just been approved by the Maricopa County Superior Court to take place on November 8, breaks one of the national stereotypes for the Grand Canyon State, because the recall movement is in opposition to Pearce’s emphasis on illegal-immigration enforcement and the loosening of gun restrictions.

The Arizona Republic reported that last month, Gov. Jan Brewer called the election in Mesa's Legislative District 18 after Maricopa County elections officials certified that 10,365 of the 16,949 signatures submitted by Citizens for a Better Arizona were valid.  The citizens group argued to the court that State Senator Pearce needed to spend his time bringing more jobs to their district and improving health care delivery systems rather than increasing the hunt for illegal immigrants and easing gun ownership and carry laws.

"I'm pleased that [Judge Hugh Hegyi] understood our arguments and accepted them," said attorney Thomas Ryan, who represented the recall group.  Hegyi struck down all eight allegations of Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall.  Pearce’s attorney Lisa Hauser will now appeal the finding to the Arizona Supreme Court, attempting to invalidate enough of the certified signatures on the recall petition to have it thrown out.  Ryan calls the appeal a desperation move on Pearce’s behalf, adding that he also likes his chances with the Supreme Court.

The Arizona Republic is reporting that candidates have until September 9 to collect the 621 signatures required to qualify for the ballot and submit them to the Secretary of State's Office if they are interested in running against the incumbent Pearce.  So far, the paper reports, two Republicans and one Independent have filed paperwork to begin the process.

While it is too early to say that this action against one of Arizona’s and Maricopa County’s most vociferous anti-immigrant, pro-gun politicians represents a sea change in Arizona politics, it certainly bears watching as one possible sign that the economic environment has begun to take precedent over more ideologically driven political motives.  No state in the union – with the possible exception of California – has more at stake in the immigration wars than Arizona.

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