Candidate in Senate President Russell Pearce Recall Election

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Jerry Lewis, one of the candidates challenging Senate President Russell Pearce in the November recall election, talks about why he is running for office and his legislative priorities.


Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. Earlier in month, Mesa Republican Jerry Lewis turned his signatures in to the Arizona secretary of state's office, qualifying him to be on the ballot against senate president Russell Pearce in the November 8th recall election. This would be the first recall election of a state lawmaker in Arizona's history. With me to talk about his campaign, legislative priorities and more, is Jerry Lewis.
Jose Cardenas: Mr. Lewis. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Jerry Lewis: Thanks for having me.

Jose Cardenas: You're new to politics and a lot of people don't know who you are. Give us a little bit of a background sketch.

Jerry Lewis: Well, I was born in Los Angeles, California. Was there for the first 19 years of my life. Moved here after I graduated with my bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting. Started working for the accounting firm of Deloitte and House, which is now Deloitte & Touche and worked for over nine years and went to work for a client out of a Hong Kong office and sold my interest in that company and went into education where I taught for 14 years. After 14 years of education, I decided to get back into business before I was too old to figure it out anymore and got back into it in 2006, went to work for a friend as a CEO of his building company and after a year of Arizona's building industry in collapse --

Jose Cardenas: Yeah, timing could have been better, I think.

Jerry Lewis: Could have been a little bit better, but after a year of that, we decided we probably don't need two of us running the company and went back into my own consulting practice and through that, began working with the Sequoia charter schools and became the assistant superintendent of Sequoia. And have been there now for just over four years.

Jose Cardenas: How long have you been in Mesa?

Jerry Lewis: Been in Mesa for 29 years, as of June 28th, 1982.

Jose Cardenas: You were not involved in the recall effort, as I understand.

Jerry Lewis: That's correct; I was not involved in the recall election. Nor were the people who recruited me to run for this office.

Jose Cardenas: So the recall gathered the signatures needed and then what happened? Somebody came and said we want you to be it?

Jerry Lewis: Actually, not thinking of doing it. When it became obvious that the recall had been approved, by the county recorders count and the secretary of state and the governor's office, I was approached by two different groups of people about the possibility of running. We considered it and decided that we would do our best to carry the cause of many people in Mesa who want a fresh voice for Mesa.

Jose Cardenas: You talked about two different groups of people. Tell us about that.

Jerry Lewis: These are friends, people I've known for the time I've been in Mesa, some from before I moved here. A dear friend who has been a great mentor of mine for many years, approached me as well as another person I had known for about 20 or so years in my dealings here in Mesa approached me independently, these are people that are involved in business, that saw that we need to have a change in terms of the image that's being portrayed to the rest the world, from Mesa and the state of Arizona.

Jose Cardenas: What about the Republican party leadership in Mesa?

Jerry Lewis: In terms of their support, I'm not sure how much support there is. I believe there's a lot of the people who really do support our efforts and have come forward and silently offered their support, but do not want to come out in -- in vocal support of -- of what I'm doing or what the people of Mesa are asking me to do.

Jose Cardenas: I want to come back to that a little bit. But focusing still on the calculus deciding whether to run. Most people at that time would have considered Russell Pearce unassailable. That there's no way he could lose in that district.
Jerry Lewis: That's a fair assessment and the decision to run was not made lightly. We did a lot of research and as you may recall, there was a lot of speculation before we made our announcement, but we did not decide until the night before our announcement. There were a lot of things we had to calculate to make sure we had the support and make sure I could do everything I needed to do to be a successful senator. Representing all of the constituents of district 18 and the people of Arizona in a way I could feel proud of and they could feel proud of as well.
Jose Cardenas: Was there any one single factor that impelled that decision?

Jerry Lewis: I think it was my dear wife's support. When she decided she agreed with the cause as much as I did. That was the final straw that made it apparent that we need to do this. We need to bring a fresh voice to Mesa.

Jose Cardenas: So you made the decision and then started campaigning. What's the first thing did you?

Jerry Lewis: The first thing, we had an announcement at the Wright house. And we had a lot of our supporters in attendance for that. We immediately filed our papers that morning. And then began gathering signatures across district 18, a lot of people came out to support us. To take the signature pages and walk from door-to-door, take them to the neighborhoods and through that effort, we gained over 11,075 signatures and still gaining them. We turned in our first wave and plan to turn in more before the deadline on September 9th but we'd like to have three or four thousand.
Jose Cardenas: Which is substantially more than requires, correct?
Jerry Lewis: Yeah, there are only 621 required.

Jose Cardenas: And what kind of support are you finding? Are there particular groups of people that you can identify as strong supporters for your campaign?

Jerry Lewis: Absolutely. Recently as last night, we went out and visited people door-to-door and I was amazed on the street that I went on everybody that was home engaged in discussion and was in support. Except one who came to the door -- to the door and said, I'm tired and there was no pro or con, but some I talked to, 15, 20 minutes at a time about the race were very much in support as were the others out last night, also stated in that neighborhood, there was a great deal of support. Obviously, my opponent has support as well and what we're finding as people hear more about me and understand who I am and understand the way I go about doing business and leading, they're very, very favorably pleased and some have decided to throw their support my direction.

Jose Cardenas: Why is that? Because in many aspects and I think you've acknowledged this, your politic, basically views are not that much different from Russell Pearce and the majority of people in that district. Conservative Republican. What is it that makes people want to support you as opposed to keeping him in office?

Jerry Lewis: I think what brings people to my side is the fact that I have experience and -- experience in working in education and know how to help schools that are failing become successful schools and I know how to help the teachers and the students they teach become more successful. I've run businesses before, started businesses before and accounted for many businesses and I've been there. Whereas, my opponent has legislated in business, I've actually had the opportunity to be a business owner, to account for businesses and be a teacher, a principal, to be a superintendent of a charter school organization. I understand the issues first hand. And with my leadership experience over the years, I've learned how to work with people, though they come from divergent opinions to bring them to the table, to debate, to negotiate, to find the best solutions and I believe people want a fresh voice. They want someone that is positive. That attacks the issues rather than the opponents, that include all people into the debate. So that every voice can be heard and we can garner the greatest result from the debate and bring about the greatest legislation on that particular issue.
Jose Cardenas: Is that something that you think distinguishes you from Russell Pearce?

Jerry Lewis: Most definitely. I believe the people of Arizona want someone that has been a leader, that has the education and the business and the personal relations experience that will represent the image of Arizona in a very positive light. That will represent the people of Mesa in a very positive light and will work toward restoring what in many people's eyes is a much damaged image of the state of Arizona.

Jose Cardenas: What would be your legislative priorities as a senator?

Jerry Lewis: Well, obviously, the economy is a very, very serious issue. The economy is bleeding. And the only way to stop that bleeding is through jobs. We've got to bring more jobs back and part of that is showing potential business owners, people that are considering moving their businesses to Arizona or moving them elsewhere or expanding their businesses within Arizona, that we have a very, very educated workforce. That we have an image and a political scene that they would want to live in and so I believe with my experience, I can help bring about that image; I can help improve the education and results of our students so we can be seen as a very positive place to start a business. To expand a business and grow a business.

Jose Cardenas: What about the subject of immigration?

Jerry Lewis: Obviously, that's a very, very strong issue right now in the eyes of many people. It's a big issue. We have to address it. We have to address all aspects of immigration. If we just focus on just amnesty or just enforcement, we're missing everything else in between. We have to look at every other aspect. The economic effects. The effects that immigration laws have on families and the propensity for the laws to divide those families and we have look at how we really feel about our fellow man, regardless of race and color. We have to consider all aspects of national security. We can't just focus on one aspect and what I hope to do is bring about an environment where we can look at the whole picture and bring about reasonable legislation that we can all be proud of that works, that sustains our economy and helps us be seen as a very positive place to start a business, in the state, the country, and to be successful.

Jose Cardenas: Speaking of legislation, your opponent's signature piece of legislation was S.B. 1070. You've been quoted, I think you've indicate you were misquoted as saying S.B. 1070 was a good start. What is your view of S.B. 1070?
Jerry Lewis: S.B. 1070 includes some aspects that have to be considered in the debate, but as I mentioned, it's an incomplete argument in a much broader issue that has to be considered in light of all of the aspects. The business, the education, the
amnesty aspects. Everything has to be considered. There are some pieces in the legislation that I suppose are -- are good, that make a lot of sense, but wherein it's helped us focus our attention on the issue, I believe it has to be viewed in light of all the issues. The main issue is, we have to get the federal government to do their job and if we're working with the federal government in a collaborative way, not attacking them, not calling them treasonous, but in a way where they can come to the table and work with all of the state, not just Arizona, all of the states to effect reasonable legislation, that I believe will kick start our economy and help us get about the business of business.

Jose Cardenas: I understand you support the principles of the Utah compact. Would you summarize that quickly for us and explain why you support it.

Jerry Lewis: The principles of the Utah Compact are, I believe, again, great guiding principles to help us understand where we need to go with immigration. We need to contract economic impact, the rule of law, we need to consider the breaking up the families and need to consider all of the issues involved. And there are some other issues, national security, that have to be considered as well. A great set of principles that help guide the discussion of real immigration reform. That's enforceable and sustainable and will not be debated for the next 20 years in the court of law.

Jose Cardenas: Now the Morman Church has come in support of the Utah Compact. Is the Morman church supporting your campaign?

Jerry Lewis: They don't support anybody's campaign and I would draw your attention to their statement at LDS.org, they don't support any candidate. They not supporting me did not ask me to run and I was asked by friends and a lot of people in the church do support the Utah compact as well and I support it. And agree with the fundamental principles discussed in it. But I'm running on my own. The church is not behind me.

Jose Cardenas: But you're Morman and you have support in the Morman community.

Jerry Lewis: I do have a lot of support in the Morman community.

Jose Cardenas: How is the campaign going? One recent development, the Supreme Court will hear the challenge to the recall itself on September 13th, that's coming up. Beyond that, how is the campaign going?

Jerry Lewis: Campaign is going wonderful, I'm overwhelmed with the support of so many people. I'm amazed that so many think the way me and those who asked me to run think and want a fresh voice for Mesa. It's important to understand that the recall is over, barring the Supreme Court overturning what the governor, the secretary of state, the county recorder and will of the people have stated as mentioned in the Arizona constitution, has to take place. There's going to be an election. If not an election as to whether or not you like the recall or not, that's been decided. The recall is happening. There's an election between Russell Pearce, myself and whoever else qualifies to be on the ballot. It had now between two people, the people who asked me to run only asked when this became obvious there's going to be an election and wanted to put toward forward the person they thought would be the best to oppose Senator Pearce. That's what we're trying to do here. It's not an idea of is the recall what -- the best legislation or something that is fair or not fair? If we don't agree, then we need it change the law in due time, but the law is in effect and we want to enforce the law and the election goes on between individuals and not between ideals.

Jose Cardenas: On that point, and this will be the last topic. You've indicated you intend to run a civil campaign, no personal attacks. But there are reports that you've been physically assaulted and a lot of publicity over Chuck's statement that was perceived as a treat against any Republican who voted for you.

Jerry Lewis: I'm not sure that the padlock incident had to do with the election.

Jose Cardenas: We're talking about a person who threw a padlock at you when you were running.

Jerry Lewis: It is a painful experience but I hope it didn't have anything to do with the election. I had announced my candidacy, I had gotten back the week previous and it was in the papers so I hope it had nothing to do with that. There have been attacks. I don't read the blogs, the comment, but the attacks on me -- I want to tell people who support me, they support me; don't gravitate down to that level. I'm running because I want to bring back a civil tone to Arizona politics, to politics in general. To Mesa politics, to East valley, to Arizona politics. I want to be able to be a voice of reason and help people understand we don't have to use vitriol to get across our point. Our personalities and issues we stand for should be sufficient and we don't have to attack our opponents. They want politicians, not boxers. If they want boxers, they can watch HBO on Friday night.
Jose Cardenas: You have a website where people can get information?

Jerry Lewis: Please, if you want to have more information, go to JerryLewisforsenate.com.

Jose Cardenas: Mr. Lewis. Thank you for joining us.
Jerry Lewis: Thank you very much. Appreciate it Jose.
Jose Cardenas: Our pleasure.

Jerry Lewis:Recall candidate;

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