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Recall of State Enforcement Champion Russell Pearce of Arizona Holds Little Relevance for Nationwide Effort


Some of the open-borders bloggers and leaders are suggesting that the recall of Arizona state senator Russell Pearce means the beginning of the end for state efforts across the country to stop illegal aliens from taking jobs and taxpayer-provided benefits.    And some of our allies in other state legislatures are even asking if they should feel vulnerable.

My short response is that the Pearce recall by the voters of his state senate district last week was largely a localized situation without much relevance to enforcement efforts nationwide.


Probably the key factor to keep in mind is that the recall election occurred when only a half-dozen states were having elections.  That allowed the open-border forces to concentrate most of their money and energy on Pearce's tiny Arizona district.  There were few competing requests for the money that was used to buy signatures to create the recall election and then run the outside-group advertising.

Pearce was beaten by Jerry Lewis, another Republican, who won with about 53% of the vote.  If the challenge to Pearce had happened during a regular election year, it is doubtful that nearly as much open-borders money and energy could have been funneled solely to this recall effort. That alone might easily have made the difference in election results.

Furthermore, if this had been a regular Primary election, the Republican Pearce most likely would have easily defeated  Republican Lewis.  Because in a Primary election, only Republicans would have been choosing between these two candidates.  By all news accounts, the assumption is that Pearce easily won the Republican votes in this recall ballot.  But the rules are different in a recall election so that non-Republicans were allowed to help choose between the two Republican candidates. It is widely assumed that most Democrats, for example voted for Pearce's opponent.  In a regular general election, Pearce would have been the Republican on the ballot and facing a Democratic opponent in this heavily Republican district.

All of this is to say that it took some very special circumstances to engineer Pearce's defeat.

These -- and the circumstances noted below -- are such a rare combination that I can't imagine seeing them converging much of anywhere else.

(Nov. 14 -- After posting this article, I was sent a mainstream media analysis from Arizona. It mirrors a lot of what I wrote here. You can read it at: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2011/11/09/20111109mesa-how-russell-pearce-lost-race.html)

(Nov. 15 -- Now, Sen. Pearce himself has written an an analysis of the reasons and meaning of his defeat.  You can read it in Politico: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68374.html)


It appears to be true that immigration was the key issue for why the recall occurred because open-borders groups were behind putting it on the ballot. Nobody in America has been more in the spotlight  than Pearce for making immigration enforcement a state issue. 

And immigration apparently was also a key reason why Mormon Church leaders in this heavily Mormon district decided to back the Mormon challenger over the Mormon Pearce.  Over the last year, national Mormon leaders have moved closer to other national religious leaders in supporting amnesty for illegal aliens and may have been embarrassed by Pearce's outspoken leadership not only against amnesty but for moving illegal aliens back to their home countries.

But when it came to what the voters were mainly thinking or hearing when they cast their ballots, immigration was not up front. 

Pearce's opponent hardly mentioned immigration. Even the ads against Pearce generally avoided immigration, all probably because the open-borders people knew that the voters of the district support vigorous enforcement against illegal immigration.  The battle was much more about a long list of other issues that his opponents called too hard-line and right-wing. 

In Arizona, Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce was known as a bull-dog leader on a lot of issues, constantly crossing new lines and testing the limits of where he could get majority support.   Most political leaders with a courageous style of constant confrontation often lose some of their supporters who grow weary of the battles along the way.  Style and tone seem to have been more an issue than the actual political stance -- particularly on the immigration issue.

And unfortunately, the campaign against Pearce also included attacks based on conflict-of-interest allegations.  Whatever the merits of those allegations turn out to be, political analysts say they cost Pearce votes and surely were part of the final percentage points that put his challenger up to the 53% mark.


After years of watching the Clinton and Bush Administrations refuse to enforce the immigration laws passed by Congress, Russell Pearce burst on the scene with the idea that Arizona citizens did not have to live at the mercy of an uncaring and, in his mind, outlaw federal government.

He jawboned the public and his fellow legislators into making Arizona the cutting edge of the immigration-enforcement movement.  His legislation was always controversial.  Most of it was challenged and delayed in courts.  Some of it was barred totally by courts. But a lot of it stood, and the legislation on E-Verify was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.

But win or lose in the courts, his efforts caused large numbers of illegal aliens to leave the state.  Over the last two years, there have been legislators in every other state who have tried to imitate Pearce's efforts in one way or another.  Most of those efforts thus far have failed.  But in every legislative session, the total number of state laws fighting illegal immigration across the nation has grown.

It is because of the state legislative movement in which Russell Pearce was the star actor that there is even a chance that the current U.S. Congress might finally mandate electronic workplace verification nationwide.

With state legislators reconvening for their annual sessions in January, NumbersUSA will once again be assisting state representatives and senators who pursue state solutions to their immigration problems, as we also fight to enact nationwide laws.

I see nothing in the highly individualized circumstances of Pearce's unfortunate election loss last week that should cause other elected leaders to pull back from their duty to protect the American workers and taxpayers in their jurisdictions from reckless lawlessness by the federal officials who refuse to fully enforce our immigration rules.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

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