Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Standard-Bearer Russell Pearce Goes Down

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Voters in Maricopa County, Arizona made history Tuesday night, recalling Republican State Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of the state’s draconian anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070. It was the first time an Arizona state legislator had been recalled in history, let alone a sitting State Senate president. As Elise Foley reports, immigrants’ rights activists devoted a lot of time, money and effort to recalling Pearce. Maricopa County is no swing district—it hasn’t voted for a Democrat for President since Harry Truman

Pearce, whose anti-immigrant agenda catapulted him to national prominence last year, was defeated by Republican challenger Jerry Lewis by a margin of 53-47 percent. Lewis struck a moderate tone on immigration, particularly in comparison with Pearce, whose rhetoric on the issue was often loaded with noxious racial language. Despite outraising Lewis, getting a sham candidate on the ballot meant to split the anti-Pearce vote, and engaging in campaign tactics meant to manipulate Latinos into throwing away their votes, Pearce lost to Lewis by a decisive margin. Pearce’s reputation also suffered after he was implicated the Fiesta Bowl scandal, in which he was accused of illegally accepting game tickets. 

All the same, although recalling Pearce inflicts a measure of retribution for immigrants’ rights activists in the state, much of Pearce’s anti-immigrant agenda has already become mainstream in the Republican Party. When the Obama administration challenged SB 1070 in court, Republicans rallied around the state and blamed the president for failing to enforce laws against illegal immigration. Although most SB 1070 copycats failed, states like Alabama and Georgia have enacted similar laws. Of the two current Republican front-runners, Herman Cain likes to joke about killing unauthorized immigrants with an electrified death fence, and Mitt Romney smothered Texas Governor Rick Perry’s primary run by slamming Perry for his decision to let unauthorized immigrant teenagers pay in-state tuition at Texas colleges. 

Pearce’s recall was a historic event. But Pearce had already made history by helping to make “attrition through enforcement” the primary approach to immigration policy in the Republican Party. The question now is whether anyone in the GOP is actually having second-thoughts about the party’s anti-immigrant agenda after Pearce’s loss.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate