MESA, AZ (KPHO/AP) -Voters have ousted state Sen. Russell Pearce in an unprecedented recall election, a first for an Arizona legislator.
With a majority of the precincts reporting, the top vote-getter, Republican Jerry Lewis, steps into the District 18 legislative seat for the second year of a two-year term.
Lewis claimed victory at 9 p.m.
People on both sides of the debate said that removing Pearce would send a powerful message to the Legislature that uncompromising stances on immigration and other issues will not be tolerated by voters.
Pearce, a 64-year-old conservative Republican from Mesa, outspent his challenger by more than a 3-to-1 ratio and painted the recall advocates as liberal outsiders who targeted him because of his immigration stance.
The recall election was forced by a petition drive. Pearce had support from Gov. Jan Brewer and dozens of other elected Republican officeholders, but he was dogged by disclosures that he accepted numerous free trips from the Fiesta Bowl to out-of-state college football trips.
Football trips? That’s what got them pissed off? From care 2:
State Senator Russell Pearce, the force behind Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070, was defeated in a recall election by challenger Jerry Lewis, marking another big defeat for a state that led the way in immigrant-bashing legislation.
Pearce lost despite holding a 3-to-1 fundraising advantage and a media willing to believe his tales of widespread public support for SB 1070. But ultimately it was his nativist views that did him in.
This was the first election of its kind for Arizona which in some way makes sense that it would involve Pearce. He openly campaigned with neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, denied the Holocaust in an email to constituents and has a resume marked with time spent mentored by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.