Senate President Russell Pearce characterizes the massive recall effort against him as a product of liberal citizens who unpatriotically share zero interest in his politics, which is seemingly limited to the topic of curtailing illegal immigration by any means necessary.
And he’s probably even right at that.
Citizens for a Better Arizona last month filed more than 18,000 signatures in hopes of removing him from office. There’s a decent chance that most of the recall signers have no interest in rewriting the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bestows citizenship on those lucky enough to be born in the United States. They probably don’t want emergency room physicians forced to report sick or injured illegal immigrants to authorities, either.
In that sense, they could be more like Pearce’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, who this year rejected several illegal immigration proposals — including those mentioned — that make previous Pearce victories like employer sanctions or even SB1070 seem relatively tame.
Still, Pearce hasn’t called his colleagues a “cartel,” or “anarchists” or “left-wingers,” as he has with those attempting to remove him from elected office. But that doesn’t mean he is content to sit idle while his will is opposed. After the bills failed in March, he proclaimed that the Senate would revisit those measures next session — to see if lawmakers will dare oppose him during an election year.
And late last month, Pearce was delivered a victory from the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld Arizona’s employer sanctions law — which Pearce sponsored and pushed for years — on grounds that states have the right to seek to prevent the employment of illegal immigrants.
Pearce’s response was telling. He didn’t give thanks to the court or give a nod to former Arizona Solicitor General Mary O’Grady, who successfully argued the case before his very eyes. Instead, he pledged to introduce legislation to take money from counties that he suspects are hesitant to enforce the law.
And later this month, the Attorney General’s Office will argue the legality of Arizona’s voter identification requirements before a group of judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That law, which was part of Pearce’s Prop. 200 efforts in 2004, was rejected by a 96th Circuit panel in October in a ruling that upset Pearce.
He said at the time that one judge who sided with the majority in the 2-1 decision — former U.S. Supreme Court justice and Arizona icon Sandra Day O’Connor — “apparently has no respect for the rule of law” and had never bothered to read the Constitution. And he recommended that O’Connor face ethics charges.
With that in mind, it wasn’t unimaginable that Pearce wouldn’t be hesitant to offer the nation’s highest court the same level of respect. In April, he pledged his duty was to God, country and family, and he swore to pursue illegal immigration solutions similar to SB1070 even if the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rejected the law.
Pearce has put Arizona on the forefront of illegal immigration with measures related to employment, routine police encounters and voter identification. His tenacity has made him a hero to many, but his win-at-all-costs strategy and personality have left voters with more than just his politics to consider.
— Christian Palmer is the associate editor of the Yellow Sheet Report.