Arizona’s first-ever recall election for a state legislator takes place Tuesday, November 8th. Senate President Russell Pearce talks about why he should keep his office, and challenger Jerry Lewis explains why he thinks the voters of Mesa’s Legislative District 18 should select him as their new state senator.
Ted Simons: Now we hear from Senate President Russell Pearce. Thanks you for joining us tonight on "Horizon." Good to have you here.
Russell Pearce: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Let's start with, why do you think you are facing a recall? Why do you think this has happened?
Russell Pearce: Well, you know, it is pretty clear, I think. It started the year before I was elected to this term. It's about SB 1070 more than anything else. The guys that started this is a Berkeley trained community organizer, not in my district, who started to protest a year before I was elected for this term. He's the same guy that brought groups down to the capitol, threw the American flag on the ground, and trampled it. Children were trampling it. This is a really ugly group of people who started this recall.
Ted Simons: You were quoted as saying you think "outsiders have high jacked the will of Mesa voters."
Russell Pearce: Let's qualify that term. This is an outside group of liberals in a district that's elected a Republican. They come through the back door refusing to go through the process that our founders set up, and that's a primary, where your party nominates you. This is a Republican that is endorsed by the Democrats. He's endorsed by the left. To me, I mean, pretty sad when you come through the back door, refuse to do the primary process. We have an election every two years. Every two years. That's a good process. I believe in short terms, I want a short leash on you, I want to remember what you've done good and if you have not kept those promises. This recall is an abuse of the process. It's for keeping my promises, not for doing anything wrong, but for keeping my promises and being successful. 34 states are modeling Arizona. The governor just called me, she's been around the country. Everywhere she goes, standing ovations. America is proud of Arizona. Apparently these folks aren't.
Ted Simons: To that end, your opponent says he doesn't seem to have that much difference on a variety of issues. He says it's tone. He says it's simply that the nature of the tone, it's bad for Mesa and bad for Arizona. How do you respond?
Russell Pearce: Let's talk about tone. I have a letter by all the legislators but a couple of Republican senators that's talked about me being one of the best leaders, most efficient, effective and good to work with. Krysten Sinema is probably as far left as you can get on our caucus and we get along well. She stopped channel 12 in a debate and said, simply not true, I love President Pearce, he is fair. Simply not true. Talk about tone, let's turn the tables a little bit. In a debate, Mr. Lewis calls Arizona racist, calls Mesa racist, compares us to 1964 Alabama.
Ted Simons: Stop right there though.
Russell Pearce: Is that the tone he wants?
Ted Simons: Stop right there though. He says he didn't compare Arizona to 1964 Alabama, he has heard others compare.
Russell Pearce: No, that's not true. He had a chance to recant it. I was right there in the meeting when the media said, "Do you mean that?" He said yes.
Ted Simons: So you're saying he said it?
Russell Pearce: He said it. I was there. Go get the tapes.
Ted Simons: I want to make sure we're clear on this.
Russell Pearce: Go get the tape. He says he's embarrassed for Arizona and Mesa of the image. He compared to it 1964 Alabama. How embarrassing can that be?
Ted Simons: Back to the original question: Do you think Mesa voters want a change in tone from their representative?
Russell Pearce: No. They have elected me 16 times counting primaries and generals. I've kept every promise I've ever made. We've been successful. I'm 100% pro-life. I've led the charge to protect property rights from the abuse of government and the domain. I was a prominent sponsor of the marriage amendment to protect marriage between a man and a woman. I wrote the legislation and put it on the ballot, passed overwhelmingly by voters to eliminate affirmative action. I've put four ballot on in '06 that passed by 75% of Arizonans.
Ted Simons: And yet, and yet, these outsiders were able to get enough signatures for really an unprecedented recall election. How do you explain that?
Russell Pearce: Money. You know, and even the guy who had that, Randy Perez, admitted almost everybody they contacted didn't know anything about Russell Pearce. That was his own statement that we have. These are folks again that they have paid signature gatherers to go for months to get signatures.
Ted Simons: You mentioned SB 1070. Passing that law, getting the notoriety of passing that law and pushing that law, was that good for Mesa? Was that good for Arizona?
Russell Pearce: It's good for everybody. Again, 34 states writing legislation modeled after SB 1070. Let me tell you the statement I just had from Phoenix Police Department, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. They just gave me statement. They have a 30-year low in crime, and they have 600 police vacancies and they attribute it all to SB 1070. It goes on. The safest streets in over 30 years, attributed to SB 1070. That's law enforcement
Ted Simons: Did Mesa voters put you into office though to pass laws that constantly bring up court fights regarding preemption?
Russell Pearce: Of course they did. It's about state's rights. Let me tell you with preemption that's a wonderful orbit. The Supreme Court just gave us a 5-3 decision on employer sanctions. That was the same arguments of that preemption. There's never been a preemption. This is another myth they love to play up. States have inherent police powers under the constitution to enforce these laws. There has never about a preemption. There has been a lack of political will. The only impediment to enforce these laws has been local. The lack of politicians and local police chiefs that do their jobs.
Ted Simons: I want to keep it moving because there are a lot of issues. Two hundred and thirty some odd million dollars cut to education. The cuts to education, is that good for Mesa, is that good for Arizona?
Russell Pearce: With the deficit we had, education is half the budget. We have 15% fewer employees in government today. We only cut education 1.5%. We have always protected education. And we lead the nation in school choice. In fact, I work with the governor and Jon Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Construction to, create pay for performance. So we start rewarding teachers and principals who achieve high academic success in the classroom. We have a lot of things we are going to do to even make education better for those who perform.
Ted Simons: Is there more room to cut state funding of education?
Russell Pearce: It's not a matter of more room. There's never a government that can't afford to be more efficient, more effective and we know that. We favor, we support education. We've protected education and we will continue to protect education. I have children and grandchildren in school. All my kids went to private-- public school. Good grief, we're pro-education.
Ted Simons: What about AHCCCS, state Medicaid program, as far as freezing eligibility. Cutting folks from those rolls. Is that good for Mesa? Is that good for Arizona?
Russell Pearce: It's good for Arizona. We're the fifth most richest AHCCCS program in the nation. One out of five Arizonans are on AHCCCS. You can't sustain that kind of abuse. It is just out of control. We've made modest arrangements. We still are one of the richest programs in America. We're way above federal standards and federal requirement for Medicaid. You betcha. We're trying to do is bring back accountability. The taxpayers pay for all this so we're just trying to put some responsibility and transparency back into the system you and I pay for that has been overly abused and used.
Ted Simons: You've got cuts to AHCCCS, cuts to education. Something specific to Mesa?
Russell Pearce: 31-16, and the governor signed it. Russell Pearce is doing his job. The collaboration of getting a budget out.
Ted Simons: You are a big proponent of these things. You help push these things through.
Russell Pearce: The first time in years that Arizona passed out a constitutionally balanced budget, we're proud of that.
Ted Simons: Some were saying there were gimmicks in there.
Russell Pearce: No, there weren't. Another fabrication. No gimmicks, no bonding, no borrowing. We have additional debt to pay off. We pay $325 million a year just on the cost of debt in Arizona. We have to pay that debt down.
Ted Simons: The mayor of Mesa among many local municipal leaders saying at the state legislature that you and the people you lead at the capitol are meddling in municipal affairs and to knock it off, let the cities take care themselves. You guys should have all the people, of all people you should understand that the city would know best on how to manage finances.
Russell Pearce: They've got to go read the constitution. These are political subdivisions. We medal all the time. In the state, any powered authority is delegated, unlike the states which is inherent. We limited the federal government in articles I, II, and III to their limited and enumerated powers. The states created the cities and the counties. They are political subdivisions. The title alone should give them some clue. We only medal when it's appropriate, when things are out of abuse.
Ted Simons: But when so many municipal leaders, including the mayor of Mesa you're running in that district over there.
Russell Pearce: He signed my endorsement.
Ted Simons: I understand, that may be. He's saying this has gone too far as far as the state legislature getting involved.
Russell Pearce: We disagree. They had gone too far, many of the cities. Mesa is one of the better on not going too far. Like on impact fees, if you want to grow the economy and people have a right to a dream, and that's buying their own home. When you have impact fees that reach 20-25 thousand on top of other premiums and fees, it's gone too far. The affordability of the house is out of control. All we did was rein that in, created transparency and accountability. If that's going too far? Absolutely not. Protecting the taxpayer runaway back door taxes.
Ted Simons: We're running out of time here. There's more things I need to cover. I want your thoughts on the Olivia Cortes controversy.
Russell Pearce: You know, it's kind of interesting they keep using this as a controversy. I don't know Olivia, I've never met Olivia, I didn't get her in the race, I didn't get her out of the race. Not at all. I've never met her today.
Ted Simons: Were you involved in any part of her candidacy?
Russell Pearce: No. I'm going to say it again. I don't know her, I've never talked to her, I've never been engaged in any of that. I've got a couple of family members that collect signatures and they do it for people all the time. Let's talk about a sham candidate. People outside of our district bringing in a candidate, you know, Jerry Lewis. You have people inside of a district bringing forth a candidate and they are the bad guys? She filed before Jerry Lewis. Let me finish here, this is really important. What's really the sad case nobody talks about, this lady was ran out. She was intimidated. Jerry Lewis himself tried to talk her out of race and then sued her. Where's Gloria Allred when you need her? They violated this gal's rights by threatening and intimidating her she drops out the race. She had a right, is my point.
Ted Simons: Critics were saying if you did not know this and some folks in your family or campaign were implicated, you should have known.
Ted Simons: They probably didn't tell me, the point is, they did nothing wrong. Two of my nieces collect signatures. Let me tell you a story I think is important. One of them came over to my house tomorrow night worried that she had hurt my campaign, because we have different last names never thought about it. Shed tears because she was so concerned about the damage caused from an honest effort, did nothing wrong. Shame on the media for the way they have treated Olivia and my family who have the right to gather signatures to put someone on the ballot.
Ted Simons: This entire experience, everything we've talked about today start to finish, has it humbled you? Will it change you if you're put back in office?
Russell Pearce: I like to think I have a good heart just like my grandchildren. I'm a tender hearted guy when it comes to family, God, country. I'm not bashful about sharing my feelings and my love to this republic. I fight every day for freedom and less government, I'm the number one legislator for defense of taxpayers and freedom and I love this country. I would hope I would stay humble about this. I have a very tender heart when it comes to family, community and what's right.
Ted Simons: We have to stop you right there. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Russell Pearce: Thank you.
Ted Simons: That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Sen. Russell Pearce:State Senator;