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Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce to Face Recall Election

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UPDATE: It’s official!  Governor Jan Brewer has named the date of the recall election, which will happen November 8.

Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) rose to national prominence championing SB 1070, the state’s infamous anti-immigration law that spawned a series of copycat bills nationwide after it was signed into law last April.

Now, he is famous for another reason: Pearce has become the first state senate president in the nation in recent memory to be recalled.

A group called the Citizens for a Better Arizona—self-described as a mix of Democrats and Republicans who are “committed to improving the quality of life for all Arizonans”—has collected over 10,300 signatures for a recall election against Pearce.  Only 7,756 valid signatures were necessary under state law, meaning the group collected 2,609 more than was necessary.  The group cited Pearce’s flirtations with tentherism (a belief in strict Constitutional constructionism, according to the article at Alternet) and birtherism, his opposition to birthright citizenship, and his sponsorship of SB 1070 as reasons to push the recall.  Pearce has also been implicated in the Fiesta Bowl scandal, in which he and several fellow lawmakers were accused of accepting free football game tickets from Fiesta Bowl representatives.

Randy Parraz, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, spoke of a “dramatic shift” in support for Pearce over the last six months due to his often extremist leadership in the state senate:

No one expected this or picked up on this political earthquake.  We had people pouring into the office and they told us: Russell Pearce is too extreme for our district and state.

The secretary of state must now verify the signatures, and Governor Jan Brewer must formally announce a recall election, which would happen in November or March.  Pearce currently has two options: resign from office within five business days, or  become a candidate in the recall election.  All signs indicate plans to aggressively fight this attempt to oust him.

This fall from grace for Pearce—coupled with an appeals court decision to block the most extreme parts of the SB 1070 law—represents a blowback for Arizona after its anti-immigration heyday.  The state’s other major anti-immigrant personality, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is currently under heavy fire for racial profiling: he has just settled one lawsuit out of court for $200,000, and remains the target of two federal investigations into improper police conduct.