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Worsley: Decision to scrub immigration criticisms ‘probably backfired’

Bob Worsley (Supmitted photo)

Mesa Republican Bob Worsley admitted today that he likely made a mistake when he deleted his written criticisms of the state’s illegal immigration laws shortly after announcing he was running for the state Senate.

But far from back-peddling, Worsley, who is running against former senator and immigration hawk Russell Pearce, said he believes the state suffers from immigration fatigue and should redirect its energy toward improving the economy.

For Worsley, the error lies in the timing of his decision to pull out the criticism that targeted SB1070 and other strict-enforcement laws from his biography on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ website, Mormon.org.

In an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times today, Worsley took full responsibility for the controversy he created on the day he announced his candidacy.

Worsley said he wrote it months ago from the point of view of a church pastor, and his comments contained his religious views.

“I made the decision. No one else did. I take full responsibility for doing that — removing those two sentences — because I felt that, understanding my opponents’ fixation on one issue of immigration, it would be an instant inflammatory kind of comment and would get the campaign off on the wrong foot,” he said. “Obviously, not removing it on a timely basis created more attention to it. So it probably backfired and that’s my mistake.”

But Worsley said he’s not backtracking.

“It’s how I feel,” he said. But he said he he had more to say than the two sentences he pulled out.

This is what he originally said on his profile on Mormon.org: “We have suffered with the Arizona law that encouraged those immigrants without proper documents to leave the state. I have fought for the rights of Latinos and to replace those lawmakers who were most extreme in their views.”

Worsley also told the Capitol Times that his views are in complete harmony with his church’s stance.

The good thing about SB1070, he said, is it compelled the federal government to confront the issue of illegal immigration.

But now that Arizona has gotten Washington, D.C.’s attention, Worsley said it would be “misguided” for Arizona to continue hammering on this issue, he said.

“We are in a period where things are starting to recover. The last thing we need to do is step back into the single-note message of immigration,” he said, adding Arizona has done enough and should let the federal government step up to its responsibility.

Like Sen. Jerry Lewis, who defeated Pearce in November, Worsley offered a nuanced view of the country’s immigration problem and preferred a more comprehensive fix to deal with the millions who are already in the country illegally.

He also more starkly differentiated his views from those of Pearce’s.

“We have to be sensitive to the humanitarian and family issues created by how we deal with the people that are here. It cannot be pure enforcement, heartless enforcement, of the SB1070-type of approach,” Worsley said, adding enforcement-only can sometimes get a “little heavy handed” and trample the rights of people.

Worsley, founder of the in-flight catalog company SkyMall, is running for the Senate seat in newly drawn Legislative District 25. He has already received the endorsement of notable East Valley residents, including the developer Ross Farnsworth and Sens. Lewis and Rich Crandall, who isn’t seeking reelection. Lewis now resides in a different district due to new redistricting lines.

The Pearce-Worsley match-up is anticipated to be among the most closely watched primary races in the state.

Both are socially conservative. Both backed the successful constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona.

But the two Mesa Republicans have serious disagreements about how to confront illegal immigration.

As a result, the primary race will offer voters yet again another clear choice between the man who is most well-known for his incessant fight to curve illegal border-crossings, and a political neophyte who prefers a more humane solution to this complex and often emotional subject.

Worsley also sought to contrast his business experience from Pearce’s law-enforcement background, arguing he believes he’s more capable in luring in companies to Arizona than his opponent.

“I would be much better suited to be on a delegation to discuss the benefits of coming to Arizona having run business, having created over 1,000 jobs, than having someone who has been in law enforcement or has run (the Motor Vehicle Division),” he said.

RELATED STORY: Worsley campaign team shaping up

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