“Citizens for a Better Arizona” has filed more than 18-thousand petition signatures in an attempt to force a recall election for State Senate President Russell Pearce. The group’s leader, Randy Parraz, discusses the campaign.
Senator Russell Pearce Recall Effort
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Over 18,000 signatures were filed this afternoon by Citizens for a Better Arizona. That's a group looking to recall senate president Russell Pearce. The group needs just under 8,000 signatures to force a recall election. Joining us to talk about the recall effort is Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
Randy Parraz: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: Did I get those numbers right, that many were filed and you're looking for just right, You're looking for just under 8,000 or so?
Randy Parraz: It's actually 7,756.
Ted Simons: What expectations do you have for how many are going to be ok.
Randy Parraz: We're pretty confident, we had about 6% validity rate and checked with the county recorder and we also checked on our own voter action network we maintain. We're going through and checking and verifying and making sure we have a significant amount so we can make this happen.
Ted Simons: Talk to us about the timetable. I recall haring the Arizona elections director gave you guys wrong information. What's going on here?
Randy Parraz: Back in April, getting closer to the number we need and basically asked them, can you please tell us the deadline for us. If you want to guarantee based on the statutory authority and limits, November election, what would be the deadline? Even though the 120-day deadline was May 31st, they said if we turned it in by may 25th we'd qualify and that turned out not to be the case, it was actually was May 10th.
Ted Simons: So, is a November election out. Or is it still a possibility?
Randy Parraz: It's no longer guaranteed it's a possibility. Depends on how long they take.
Ted Simons: Either November or next March?
Randy Parraz: Yes. All determined by statute.
Ted Simons: It's all determined, I guess as well,on how quickly the signatures are figured out and how quickly the governor calls for the election if they all pan out?
Randy Parraz: Absolutely, there's a 90-day process starts today, with the 10-day checking period with the Secretary of State and then it goes back to the County Recorder's office for up to 60 days and back to the Secretary of Wtate for five more days and the governor's desk and she has 15 days to make -- declare an election within 15 days. It doesn't get to her desk unless there's a recall.
Ted Simons: What's the deadline for the fall election as opposed to having it come up in March?
Randy Parraz: My sense is they have to verify the signatures by the end of July, the first week of August.
Ted Simons: Ok. Let's -- talk to us about pros and cons of a November election, or a March election. I mean, November election, I guess is what you were aiming for -- what? -- to prevent him from returning to the legislature.
Randy Parraz: Exactly, so he couldn't do more damage to Arizona, right. I think one -- the cons for the November election, we have a tremendous amount of momentum right now. At no time in the history of the United States of America has any sitting senate president been recalled and we did more than double the signatures necessary and didn't do it in Tucson or Tempe, we did it in Mesa. Where people say it's so conservative and extreme and would never contemplate something like this -- there's a lot of folks who are tired what they've been seeing happening.
Ted Simons: Back to the election aspect of this. There are some who suggest a March election would be better for your group because -- at least those against Pearce, because the Senate President would be having to campaign while in session.
Randy Parraz: Absolutely, not only that, given the situation, no real candidate was viable can come out until probably mid August so it's difficult to ramp up in two months in November. This way, they have more lead time for a campaign in March, and at the same time, if that was to happen, if he was recalled, I doubt very much the Republican caucus would give him the title of the president of the senate. That would be another public embarrassment.
Ted Simons: You mentioned candidates, are they starting to line up?
Randy Parraz: I think people have identified people who fit the profile of the district. Republican but probably more moderate, someone who's a member of the LDS church, a Mormon who can really represent that community, who's got deep roots there. So, I think those folks exist but they're not going to necessarily surface until it's almost certain that Russell Pearce will, in fact, be recalled.
Ted Simons: Why are you pushing for this? Why do you think the voters in that district should have a do-over? They just voted him in. They've voted him in over and over for the past 10 years or so. Why?
Randy Parraz: People have to understand, this is not the Russell Pearce of April 2010 ofof November 2010. This is the Russell Pearce of 2011. He just had a four to five month run -- he was extreme on so many issues. Put the immigration issue aside, let's talk about guns on campus, let's talk about dismantling healthcare for poor people and taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of our K-12 education and another $200 million out of the university state system, I have universities wanting to get involved. This is a person who has become too extreme for Arizona. People who are waiting for a transplant do not get the funding, these are people who have actually died, so this is Russell Pearce as leader and president of the Senate and we feel his policies impact us all.
Ted Simons: Are you saying that Russell Pearce now is more extreme than Russell Pearce has been? Because a lot of political observers would say no big surprise. The senate presidency gives him a bigger platform. But this is the same Russell Pearce we've known for years.
Randy Parraz: But a lot of observers don't understand that most voters in Mesa, there's significant number of voters -- have never heard of Russell Pearce. We've been knocking on the door since January and we'll say, "How do you feel about Russell Pearce being president of the Senate?" And they would respond, "Who is Russell Pearce?" So, it's not as if though everybody knows who this person is, so we do a lot of education. We also know that folks, we just had a Republican couple come to the library a couple of weeks ago, we know the Republicans they self-identify middle aged, about 65 or older, white couple and Mormon and they said basically he's too extreme now for us. So, he's really gone further to the right. Now because his issue, He hasn't been a leader in the sense of driving something as president of the Senate. He's now -- he has a major player in terms of the budget and I think people see that agenda is too extreme for where they are.
Ted Simons: The door knocking, the information campaign, letting people know who this guy was, why didn't that happen last year? Why not wait for another year for it to happen? I think the critics against this move are saying you got -- basically another election is coming up, they've already voted him in - 56 some odd percent as far as winning the campaign. Why are we going through this when the voters get another chance next year?
Randy Parraz: We felt it's too long to wait. We're impatient, we don't want to wait and we feel he's done some things now - what better time to use the statutory authority to recall someone based on his record this legislative session. Lot of people thought it was an embarrassment. See those going on record if we knew what we know now, we wouldn't have invested in this state. Look at what's happening in education. Where's the leadership of Russell Pearce? So I think this someone who attacks teachers and attacks their pensions, attacks things rather than bringing people together. So, we as citizens, For me personally, it became a point in November when he became president of the senate, I just said no more. Not on my watch is he going to be president of the Senate without us trying to hold him accountable.
Ted Simons: So, when the other side says this is an abuse of the recall process. That, he's not done anything illegal, according to a lot of folks that he's not done anything that would really surprise or done anything that would really surprise observers, you say --
Randy Parraz: Absolutely not. He's done a lot of things that surprise people. People thought he was going to focus on job creation. That was his number one issue. This is a man who when 60 CEOs wrote a letter when he was trying to put forward an omnibus immigration bill, they weren't even for or against it, they just said basically let's not do this alone any more because we get hurt financially. He said he didn't care and he pushed it through and he was interested in his own personal agenda. This is the type of political extremism we're talking about. There's been thousands of legislators in the 100-year history of Arizona, but no president has ever been recalled, so how extreme must you be, we can't go out and manufacture these signatures, you can't force someone to sign. So, when you reach this level of signature gathering, there's something going on out there.
Ted Simons: Randy, thank you very much for joining us.
Randy Parraz: Thank you very much.
Randy Parraz:Citizens for a Better Arizona;