Pearce officially faces recall election

Luige del Puerto//July 8, 2011

Pearce officially faces recall election

Luige del Puerto//July 8, 2011

Sen. Russell Pearce (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

It’s official: Senate President Russell Pearce is the first sitting elected legislator who will face a recall election in Arizona history.

The Secretary of State today confirmed that the group seeking Pearce’s recall has submitted more than enough signatures for the special election to take place.

The fast pace of the work done by state and county election officials means the special election will take place this November — unless someone successfully challenges the signatures in court. Gov. Jan Brewer has 15 days from today to issue an order calling for a special election, which must occur at the next scheduled election date that is more than 90 days away, meaning Pearce will go before voters in November.

Pearce’s critics now face the daunting task of finding and persuading a credible candidate to go against the Senate’s most powerful politician in one of Arizona’s most conservative enclaves.

In order for that candidate to have any chance of toppling Pearce, he or she will likely have to be a Republican with solid conservative credentials.

Organizers of the group that sought Pearce’s recall are aware of those difficulties but are hopeful that somebody would take up the challenge.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time and no one is going to just magically appear,” said Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona, which spearheaded the recall effort.

Parraz added that possible candidates will have to be persuaded and assured of campaign support.

Matt Tolman, who is heading a group opposed to the recall, said anyone who challenges Pearce will be taking a huge political risk.

“Anybody who runs up against Russell Pearce, at this point in time, is going to be marked or tagged or whatever you want to call it,” Tolman said. “And that will ruin any potential future possibilities for them to run in the district.”

Meanwhile, committees established to support or oppose the recall effort have the option of registering as an independent expenditure committee, which would allow them to raise funds from a broader array of sources and to directly spend money for or against Pearce’s election.

Supporters of the recall say Pearce may appeal to the state’s right-wing, but he’s espousing values that are too extreme for the state and his reign as Senate President exposed his limited agenda.

But Pearce’s supporters say a recall is the wrong venue to try and remove a sitting legislator, and that the effort is meant to intimidate not just the Senate President, but others, as well, because of values and measures they advocate. They also say Pearce hasn’t violated any law but is simply carrying out promises he’s made.

Citizens for a Better Arizona submitted more than 18,000 signatures last May. The state secretary turned over nearly 17,000 of them to Maricopa County Recorder, which today found 10,365 of the signatures to be valid.

That’s more than the 7,756 signatures necessary for the recall.

Under the law, Pearce has the option of resigning from office within five business days—a move he’s unlikely to do.

Those who want to challenge the signature verification have 10 days to do so.

No candidates to replace Pearce have yet emerged.