Hours after announcing he was running for a legislative seat that pits him against immigration hawk Russell Pearce, a prominent Mesa businessman deleted his comments from a church website that were critical of Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration laws.
Bob Worsley, a Mesa Republican and founder of the in-flight catalog company SkyMall, declared this morning that he is seeking the Senate seat in newly drawn Legislative District 25.
That sets up a showdown between Worsley and former Senate President Russell Pearce, the architect of major anti-immigration laws in Arizona, including SB1070.
A profile of Worsley on Mormon.org, the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, earlier in the day outlined the Mesa businessman’s pointed criticisms of Arizona’s immigration laws.
Within several hours of his announcement, however, the comments were deleted. A church representative in Salt Lake City told Arizona Capitol Times that the comments were removed by Worsley himself, and not by the church.
The archived webpage shows Worsley, who is the president of a 150-member Hispanic branch of the church in Mesa, expressed displeasure with Arizona’s immigration laws.
“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,” the earlier webpage reads.
That passage appears to be specifically targeting SB1070, whose provisions are largely on hold by the courts. At the time of its passage in May 2010, the law was the toughest state-level immigration law in the country and it has spawned a slew of similar measures across the country since then.
But the decision to pull the comments signals a tight balancing act for a candidate who’s running in a district with Republican primary voters who presumably strongly support anti-illegal immigration laws.
Pearce, the most prominent champion of laws cracking down on illegal immigration in Arizona, was defeated by now-Sen. Jerry Lewis, a fellow Mormon, in a special recall election in November.
Immigration was a key issue in that race, and the Lewis camp tapped into the close-knit Mormon community to help win the historic recall against Pearce.
Some parallels have already been drawn between Lewis, who has been drawn to a different district, and Worsley.
Both are prominent local Mormon leaders.
Lewis prefers a more collaborative approach to solving the illegal immigration problem. From his now-deleted remarks on his church’s website, it appears that Worsley, who served as a missionary in Uruguay and Paraguay, has misgivings about proposals that seek only illegal immigrants’ expulsion.
Worsley also gave Lewis $424 during last year’s recall campaign.
The incumbent in the new LD25 is Sen. Rich Crandall, a Mesa Republican, who has said in the past that he plans to run for re-election. But Crandall announced via Twitter late this evening that he was endorsing Worsley and throwing his entire campaign infrastructure behind him.
Crandall’s tweet came shortly after Pearce announced he was seeking a comeback to the Senate, and planned to run in LD25. Crandall and Pearce have at times been at odds and Crandall beat back a primary challenge last election by a Pearce-backed candidate.