Pearce Recall Effort

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Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb discusses his recent column about how the effort to recall Senator Russell Pearce could be the start of a dangerous trend.

Ted Simons: The recall effort against senate president Russell Pearce is within a few hundred signatures of its goal. A group called citizens for a better Arizona is behind the effort. The group has until the end of the month to get the rest of the 7800 required signatures. "Arizona Republic" columnist Bob Robb wrote the recall movement could be the start after dangerous trend. Bob Robb joins us now to talk more about this. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. An abuse? What are you talking about here?

Bob Robb: Let me first acknowledge that it's legal, the Arizona constitution doesn't put any kind of restrictions on the grounds for seeking to recall an office holder. But to me, democracy is a fragile thing, and stability in government requires accepting the outcome of elections. And Russell Pearce was just selected by the voters of legislative district 18 to represent them in Arizona senate, less than seven months ago. And it's not like he was a stranger. He's probably in terms of state legislators, the best well-known candidate around. So asking for a do-over, when there's really been nothing that's occurred in the interim to suggest that he's any different than he was when the voters selected him to serve in the senate, is to me an abuse of the process, even though it's legal. And if the political parties find out that they can harass the people or most effective on the other side for just 25 grand, it might be the start of something that leads to a degree of instability that I don't think would be good for the state.

Ted Simons: You wrote that president Pearce doesn't know what he's talking about, that's a quote, shaky command of relevant information, that's another quote.

Bob Robb: And I'm his defender.

Ted Simons: I was going to say. And that's the good stuff. Why not allow people who voted for him and then saw efforts to nullify federal law in Arizona? Efforts to continue if not expand certain immigration enforcement efforts. Allowing a letter written by a teacher that seemed to pretty tough on Hispanic kids, allowing -- standing up for a lawmaker who may or may not have been involved in domestic abuse, certainly an incident on a roadway. These sorts of things, the Fiesta Bowl situation, we're learning more about that as well. Why not allow the electorate to say, you know what? Maybe we do need a do-over. Not just in this case, but in any case. At what point do you say, you voted, it's ball game.

Bob Robb: The Fiesta Bowl may be different. If something comes out about that, there may be a change in circumstances that would warrant in my judgment a recall. But at present, he's done nothing different than 16 other legislators in terms of not properly disclosing gifts or tickets from the Fiesta Bowl. The other 15 are not subject to recall. A majority of Republicans voted for the nullification vote. There's nothing in the laundry list that you depicted that ought to be a surprise to anybody who's even passingly aware of Russell Pearce and his politics. So again, there's just nothing which suggests that after seven months you should try to overcome the results of a duly constituted election that he won fairly, particularly since he'll have to face the electorate again in 2012. Channel your efforts into finding a candidate to run a more effective challenge to him then, rather than putting us during this path where there's no real justification, but you nevertheless recall somebody.

Ted Simons: When is there justification?

Bob Robb: You mentioned Scott Bundgaard. And I would say that there's been since his election an intervening set of circumstances that might cause the voters of his district to say, you know, he's not the guy that we thought we elected. And would justify asking for the electors in his district to vote him out prematurely. So to me I think if we're going to have stability in government, the recall needs to be limited where there's a change of circumstances that suggest that there ought to be a do-over. I don't see that in Pearce's case.

Ted Simons: In Arizona, first of all, do you agree? I was going to say in Arizona the recall process is not necessarily an easy one. Certainly we haven't seen a heck of a lot of recalls succeed. First of all, do you agree with the premise, and secondly, should the law, should something change regarding the recall process?

Bob Robb: At the state level is it a daunting process. Because you need 25% of the votes for the office in the previous election, that's over 400,000 signatures at that level. But as a state legislative district level, it's 7-10,000 signatures. If you can raise $25-30,000 you can do it. It's just it's never been done before. Recall petitions are taken out all the time, and the political world sort of yawns because they're never successful. But if you're willing to invest the money in it, which is what these guys have done that is different, you can succeed.

Ted Simons: But doesn't the past prove the point that this is not necessarily an abuse, because it doesn't happen all the time, and this could be a particular case in which the money was found, the mound was used, there may be a candidate out there at that time we don't know where it's going, but this exception doesn't the exception almost prove the rule?

Bob Robb: My fear is that once a political tactic is learned, it is often -- it replicates like rabbits. And so if this is used to in my judgment go after Russell Pearce, not because of his views, which are shared by most Republican legislators, not because of his votes, which are shared by most Republican legislators, but because he is unusually effective at advancing policy in certain ways people disagree with, is that that becomes a tool that becomes more widely used, and that's why I say it may start us down a wrong and a dangerous path. There are some municipalities where their city councilmen get recalled pretty regularly. We don't call them oasise s of god governments.

Ted Simons: The last question here, when people say this is democracy in action, this is a way to hold those that they elect accountable, whether it's for their abuse -- they don't like them anymore, they're tired of hearing them, they don't like the way they present a variety - . It's all under that big umbrella. When people say that, how do you respond?

Bob Robb: It is legal, but we had an election less than seven months ago. All those issues could have been brought up. There's been this change, and I just think while it's legal, they have the right to do it. The interest of the state requires a degree of self-discipline that they're not showing.

Ted Simons: Are you getting a lot of response on this?

Bob Robb: I'm getting a lot of response. Most people think I'm nuts.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, we'll end it right there. Thanks for joining us.
Bob Robb: You bet.

Bob Robb: Columnist, Arizona Republic;

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