Architect Of Arizona Immigration Law Defeated In Recall Election

Russell Pearce, the man behind Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law which purported to empower the state with numerous powers to enforce Federal immigration laws, was defeated yesterday in a recall election:

The Senate President of Arizona and author of the state’s hard-line laws against illegal immigration lost a recall election seen as a bellwether on “extreme” politics.

Republican Russell Pearce, lost by 53 percent to 45 percent with all precincts reported, according to the Maricopa County Elections office. Pearce, 64, was defeated by Jerry Lewis, a Republican school administrator who has said he opposes Pearce’s enforcement-only approach to immigration policy.

“There is a deep dissatisfaction in Arizona for what is viewed as politics in the extreme,” said Earl de Berge of the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, a nonpartisan polling company. Pearce “symbolizes a very hard-nosed view on conservative policies.”

The loss will show moderates that they can win in the state, de Berge said. “It is going to be a sea change in Arizona,” he said.


The recall is seen as part of a backlash against the immigration policies that gained the state and Pearce national attention. Pearce also backed a successful ballot measure in 2004 that banned state benefits for illegal immigrants and required proof of citizenship. He authored a 2007 measure that imposed state sanctions on businesses that hire illegal workers.

Last year, lawmakers passed a bill known as SB 1070, which requires immigrants to carry paperwork and police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally, among other provisions. Most of its provisions have been put on hold after being challenged in federal court.

In the spring, Pearce tried to pass another package of immigration measures that included denying state citizenship to children of illegal immigrants and requiring hospitals to report undocumented patients. That measure died after opposition from the state’s business community.

I had no idea this one was floating out there, or that Pearce’s constituents were displeased enough with the lead he’d taken on immigration issues to not only mount a recall, but also defeat him in a recall election. I can’t say as I’m disappointed, SB 1070 was a bad idea that is likely to be struck down in the Federal Courts before long and Pearce’s other legislation is just a bad, bad idea. Perhaps this is a sign that the Arizona GOP is veering away form its anti-immigrant stances. If so, that’s a good thing.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Not surprising. Keep in mind John McCain won a national GOP primary only 4 years ago. For every Pat Buchanan or Michael Savage there are half-a-dozen sentient and pragmatic Republicans. The former merely have a larger microphone is all. For Mr. Pearce, of course, this is a very ironic example of the law of unintended consequences in action, although I doubt he would be able even to grasp the irony.

  2. Ernieyeball says:

    “Do you know, you’re not a citizen of the United States.”
    OTB reported last March that Pearce uttered these words to Tea Party Supporters in Arizona.

    Today I ask Russell Pearce: “Do you know you are not the Arizona Senate President?”

  3. doubter4444 says:

    He’s a racist, a bigot and anti-semite. It was appalling that he had the power and the position he did. Good riddance.