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Lewis targets Pearce on immigration in first video

In his first campaign video, Mesa Republican Jerry Lewis sharpened his political position over how his approach to illegal immigration would differ from Senate President Russell Pearce’s.

The charter school executive released a 6-minute video last week, saying he believes the federal government has failed in its job to secure the Arizona-Mexico border, but that he seeks a more humane way of dealing with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here.

“Where I differ with Senator Pearce’s approach is on the question of what to do with the remaining undocumented immigrations who are here,” he said.

Lewis, who is challenging Pearce in the historic Nov. 8 recall, didn’t offer a specific solution but said legislators need to be open to listening to many voices when it comes to the complex illegal immigration problem.

YouTube Preview ImageHe said, for example, that Arizona needs to listen to the heads of dozens of Arizona companies, who earlier this year sent a letter to the Senate urging lawmakers to stop pushing immigration legislation.

Sixty top executives told Pearce in March that Arizona would be hurt economically if the state moves forward with such legislation, which at the time included a raft of bills that were eventually defeated.

The challenger also tackled one aspect of the immigration debate where some believe Pearce is vulnerable — their church’s position on the issue and how it differs from Pearce’s.

“As an important moral issue, I and many others in Mesa’s faith community share my church’s stated concern that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God,” Lewis said, clarifying that he speaks for himself and not for his church, and that he is not implying his church has endorsed him.

As expected, the former high-ranking member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was calm and soft-spoken in his video. But he also took a swipe at Pearce’s allies for their tendency to label enemies.

“I invite all to sincerely listen to these concerns without dismissing good people as anarchists or being for open borders, which is not true at all in my case. Name-calling prevents serious discussion and isn’t part of what Mesa wants,” he said.

Pearce’s allies in recent weeks have more aggressively tried to paint Lewis’ candidacy as an extension of the recall drive, which they say is spearheaded by outsiders and supporters of “open borders.”

Lewis was careful to say that he believes illegal immigrants who commit crimes and those who don’t respect the culture “need to leave” and a secure border needs to stop them from re-entering.

Meanwhile, Pearce last week released his second mailer, which, like the first, sought to promote what he’s done for small businesses and the economy.

The mailer prominently displayed a photo of Gov. Jan Brewer and Pearce. It also quoted small business owners in Mesa who drove home one point — the incumbent is good for small businesses.

The other candidate in the race is Republican Olivia Cortes, but Pearce’s critics say she is a “stealth” candidate whose aim is to divide the opposition against the incumbent.

Cortes has been largely missing from the campaign scene and has ducked reporters’ questions for weeks.

The Arizona Capitol Times reported last week that prominent members of the Maricopa County Republican Party, which is supporting Pearce, gathered signatures to help get Cortes on the ballot.

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