From the Field

Restoring Justice in the Desert: the Growing Movement to Recall a Bigot

Guest Blogger • Aug 10, 2011

Russell Pearce (right) posing with JT Ready, a Neo-Nazi activist

It goes without saying that some Arizona citizens are fed up with Russell Pearce’s “leadership.”

His critics believe that the State of Arizona is buried under political issues that need swift attending to – budget and water crises, job losses, foreclosures, public education funding. In their minds, however, all Pearce seems interested in is the legal well-being of the infamous anti-immigrant profiling bill SB 1070, banning birthright citizenship outright, and House Bill 2281, which prevents students from studying ethnic cultures and history.

Instead of resorting to more tradition methods of protest, Arizona’s communities have taken an unprecedented step to rid themselves of the destructive lawmaker.

On January 10, 2011, Citizens for a Better Arizona filed a petition to recall Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce of District 18, Mesa, Arizona. The group collected 18,310 signatures from local residents—more than the total number of votes (17,552) Pearce garnered in the last election.

“For all the things we care about, he only focuses on his political agenda,” said Randy Parraz, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona.

So far, 16,948 signatures have been submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. Of the 15,609 signatures that have so far been processed, 9,414 have been recorded as valid. As 1,339 signatures still remain to be processed, the valid signature COUNT could reach as high as 10,217.

“We only need 7,756 to recall Pearce,” Parraz said. “We have done our job to make sure enough signatures are valid. It is just the matter of when the recall election will happen.”

On July 12, Arizona governor Jan Brewer confirmed the recall and announced a recall election will happen on Nov. 8, leaving Pearce two options: resign in five business days or sign up as a candidate in the recall election.  The Secretary of State’s office verified 10,365 votes valid from nearly 17,000 signatures that were submitted since the recall petition was filed in January in District 18, Mesa Arizona.

Pearce could end up being the first ever Senate President in any state to be slung out of office via recall.

And it’s not as if he’s done nothing to deserve this avalanche of backlash.

Last year, Pearce infamously worked closely with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and its star lawyer, Kris Kobach, who helped draft SB 1070. FAIR, of course, was founded by John Tanton; the white nationalist is the architect of the contemporary anti-immigrant movement. Since introducing the bill, Pearce played a pivotal role in achieving its initial passage.

It was that role, one which he so zealously assumed, and his continuing obsession with SB 1070 that has finally convinced so many that Pearce is interested in nothing beyond building his own Arizona—something of a mono-cultural (white) state. More to the point, he is playing a significant role within the John Tanton Network itself, helping to advance FAIR’s anti-immigrant agenda deeper and deeper into the tissue of the national immigration debate.

With the furor surrounding SB 1070 raging, Pearce saw an opportunity to take that agenda further, and so began pushing House Bill 2281. This bill banned all ethnic studies curriculums from Arizona’s public schools, outlawing Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American studies in one broad sweep.

When questioned about what appeared to many as a clear reflection of his racist leanings, he alleged that “…these ethnic studies, they’re not about culture, they’re revolutionary studies.”

In April, such sentiments led high school students to chain themselves to the chairs of school board members.

“Nobody was listening to us, especially the board,” said high school student Lisette Cota. “We were fed up. It may have been drastic but the only way was to chain ourselves to the boards’ chairs.”

The students chanted in unison: “Our education is under attack. What do we do? We fight back!”

Regardless of concerns among constituents, SB 1070 and House Bill 2281 were passed. But while the passage of these bills shocked many nationwide, many others have long been aware of Pearce’s bigoted antics and connections to what is an ever more powerful element among the US’s extreme far-right.

Pearce has been working closely with FAIR for quite some time, as he is also a key member of the State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), a network of anti-immigrant officials dedicated to giving trial runs – all at the expense of tax-payers – to legislative measures drafted by FAIR.

Pearce also endorses neo-Nazi activist and politician J.T. Ready, and has e-mailed information from white supremacist group the National Alliance to other state representatives. The National Alliance, it should be noted, was started by William Pearce, who famously authored The Turner Diaries, the novel largely credited as presenting Timothy McVeigh with the blueprint for his attack on the FBI’s Murrah Building in Oklahoma City back in 1995.

In 2006, when Pearce’s e-mail containing that National Alliance article was leaked, he came under heavy criticism. He, of course, immediately apologized.

USA Today quotes him as having said, “My heart is really hurt to think something like that would go out under my name. I was very embarrassed I didn’t have better diligence and read the whole article.”

Such articles, though, rarely land in the e-mail in-boxes of those haven’t either sought out their authors/publishers or the ideas they espouse.

Russell Pearce is a powerful political leader in Arizona. He is also a liar and a bigot, a man whose extreme views have tarnished the state of Arizona to an almost indelible degree.

But now some residents are seeking to counter that tarnishing with brush strokes of their own.

The people of Arizona shouldn’t be asked to endure such a “lawmaker,” one who is doing everything but representing so many of them.

Recalling Russell Pearce is not just a way to fight back; it’s a way back, a way towards restoring justice in the desert.

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