Senator Pearce Recall Election

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An interview with Arizona Republic reporter Alia Beard Rau regarding the Senator Pearce recall election (recorded before Olivia Cortes officially withdrew from the race).


José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. The Senator Pearce recall election is next month. He faces charter school executive Jerry Lewis and retiree Olivia Cortes. Right now, the focus continues to be on candidate Olivia Cortes and accusations that she is a sham candidate. This week, a judge ruled Cortes is to remain on the ballot. With me to update us on the recall election is Alia Beard Rau, reporter for "The Arizona Republic." Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."
Alia beard Rau: Thanks for having me.
José Cárdenas: Let's start with the latest news, which is -the Supreme Court's decision not to postpone yet another hearing on the Olivia Cortes candidacy. Tell us about that.
Alia beard Rau: Olivia Cortes' attorney asked the Supreme Court today to stop the hearing on Friday. The additional hearing scheduled was supposed to have new witnesses who may new information about different connections to the Russell Pearce campaign and the Olivia Cortes campaign. The attorney asked that hearing be halted.

Josè Càrdenas: This is Olivia Cortes' attorney?

Alia Beard Rau: This is Olivia Cortes' attorney and the court ruled they will not halt the hearing. So we have a hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Josè Càrdenas: I saw the order was very short. One justice said we'll not accelerate this or denied the motion for a stay, so the hearing on Friday will go forward. But there's a reference to considering the complaint itself. At some time in the future, do you know what that's about?

Alia Beard Rau: We're still trying to figure it out. But basically it looks like the Supreme Court reserves the right to look at the case at a later date. There's no way to know if they'd do that shortly after there's another ruling from the superior court or look at it after the election but it essentially gives them the ability to look at the underlying case against Olivia Cortes.

Josè Càrdenas: So let's go back to that case. There were hearings last week in front of Judge Burke, you were in the courtroom.
Alia Beard Rau: Yes.
Josè Càrdenas: Tell us what you observed.

Alia Beard Rau: Basically we had Olivia Cortes take the stand which was much anticipated. She's someone we've been trying to reach for a number of weeks and this is the first time that the media and members of the public got to hear from her herself.

Josè Càrdenas: She wasn't answering the door or responding to phone calls and so forth.

Alia Beard Rau: Emails, nothing. We got to hear from her as to why she decided to run and got to hear from Greg Western, the east valley tea party chairman. He's a member of Cortes' church and encouraged her to run. He's been a supporter of Pearce in the past but he says he's now supporting Cortes.

Josè Càrdenas: Were there any other witnesses?

Alia Beard Rau: There were a couple. A couple of Pearce supporters who collected signatures on Olivia's behalf. Also one paid petition gatherer who collected signatures on Olivia's behalf.

Josè Càrdenas: So let's talk about the witnesses had to say, beginning with Olivia Cortes. What was Olivia Cortes' explanation as to why she's running?

Alia Beard Rau: She said she's talk to Greg Western about it. She said she was passionate about constitutional issues and things going on, and has thoughts on immigration she wants to share and thinks she can be a good leader in the community.

Josè Càrdenas: But, why the decision to run? That came from Greg Western?

Alia Beard Rau: That came from Greg Western. He said on the stand he's the one who encouraged her to run.

Josè Càrdenas: And why did she think that she should do that?

Alia Beard Rau: She was somewhat vague. She said, again, she had immigration issues she wanted to get out there and involved in and thought she could be a good leader and make a difference in her community. She's a naturalized citizen and felt that perspective would bring something unique to Arizona.

Josè Càrdenas: And yet she knew almost nothing about her campaign.

Alia Beard Rau: Right.

Josè Càrdenas: What did she have to say about that?

Alia Beard Rau: She admitted she didn't know who paid the petition regulators to help her get on the ballot. She said she didn't know who paid for the signs put up around West Mesa for a period of time. She wasn't familiar with the slogan where it came from, the history of the united farm workers. She admitted that Greg Western was running her campaign and didn't know who did her website.

José Cárdenas: She contends she does intend to mount a campaign but actually hasn't done anything.

Alia Beard Rau: She said she intends to mount a campaign. Greg Western said she's going to mount the campaign. He told me earlier this week that they were trying to do fundraising to get flyers printed up to distribute them around the community.

Josè Càrdenas: The judge seemed not impressed with Mr. Western.

Alia Beard Rau: No.

Josè Càrdenas: And made comments basically challenging his veracity.
Alia Beard Rau: Correct. The judge was clear in the ruling that he thought Greg Western knew what was going on and Greg Western said he didn't know who paid for the petition gatherers or the signs. And the judge made it clear that he did not believe Western. He did make it clear he did believe Cortes. Clear in saying she was not compliant in these specific issues.

Josè Càrdenas: She seemed to make a point of saying she has a different point of view on immigration issues than Russell Pearce. What did she say about that and do you think she's sincere?

Alia Beard Rau: She says Pearce's stance is too harsh and harsh is her word. That believes in closed borders and enforcing immigration law but wants to see more on helping immigrants coming into the country legally for work purpose. She specifically mentioned finding sponsors and working with employers to come here legally. She's a naturalized citizen and that's how her father came here. And she thinks more can be done to bring people here legally that way.

Josè Càrdenas: Now on Western is, as you mentioned, what? The East Valley Tea Party?

Alia Beard Rau: Correct.

Josè Càrdenas: And long time Pearce supporter?

Alia Beard Rau: Yes.
Josè Càrdenas: How did he explain why he's supporting Olivia Cortes?

Alia Beard Rau: He says he has spoken to her extensively about her immigration views. And he believes she has lot offer in that route. So now he's supporting her.

Josè Càrdenas: Was he critical of Senator Pearce?

Alia Beard Rau: He was not.

Josè Càrdenas: And is that the part that perhaps made the judge skeptical about --

Alia Beard Rau: It's possible. There were questions he was vague on answering in the past and the media has interviewed him about who he may support and vote for. He hedged a little bit. He was clear after the hearing he does support Olivia but in the past, he's been vague.

Josè Càrdenas: The petition signers, or gatherers, as I understand, a couple of them were nieces of Russell Pearce, is that right?
Alia Beard Rau: Correct.

Josè Càrdenas: Were the ones who testified?

Alia Beard Rau: No, they weren't in court.
Josè Càrdenas: But that's established, in the media.

Alia Beard Rau: Yes.
Josè Càrdenas: The people who testified, what did they say? What they were doing and why they were doing it?

Alia Beard Rau: Those who did it voluntarily were very clear they were Russell Pearce supporters and that they were doing it to get Olivia on the ballot in order to pull votes away from Jerry Lewis, the other candidate and help Russell Pearce retain his seat. And they made no qualms about it.

Josè Càrdenas: And at the end of the day, the judge said it was pretty clear that this was indeed an effort by supporters of Russell Pearce , if not Russell Pearce himself, to put on a candidate who would siphon votes from Jerry Lewis.

Alia Beard Rau: By supporters of Pearce, correct.

Josè Càrdenas: And yet he didn't throw Olivia Cortes off the ballot?

Alia Beard Rau: No. again, he was clear in that he did not think Olivia herself was complacent. He also said it wasn't fraud because the petition collectors told people that's why they were collecting signatures. They've been very honest; there were videos of them telling people, we're doing this to help Russell Pearce. And people signed it.

Josè Càrdenas: There's commentary that this is not an unusual tactic, of course, you're an incumbent, and you hope that somebody gets on the ballot to split the vote but the Pearce supporters were sloppy how they did this one.

Alia Beard Rau: That's fair. And you have people saying how this is different from Jerry Lewis talking to candidates and convincing them not to run.

Josè Càrdenas: Or the democrat party not running a candidate?

Alia Beard Rau: Correct.

Josè Càrdenas: This is going to have consequences. It already has. Based on the testimony, the city of Mesa ordered the signs taken down because there's no indication as to who paid for them?
Alia Beard Rau: Correct.
Josè Càrdenas: And we now that know she didn't.

Josè Càrdenas: The secretary of state says he's going to launch an investigation.

Alia Beard Rau: Correct.

Josè Càrdenas: What do you think is going to be the impact ultimately, let's assume she stays on the ballot? Does it help or hurt Russell Pearce?

Alia Beard Rau: I think it hurts. I think a lot of people may not distinguish between people who support Russell Pearce putting her on the ballot and Russell Pearce himself. Or those behind Russell Pearce's campaign itself are putting her behind the ballot. -- People are talking about it and know her name and not saying positive things. I think this could hurt Pearce.

Josè Càrdenas: So mow if the hearing goes ahead on Friday, it's going to only get worse?

Alia Beard Rau: I would think so, yes. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Josè Càrdenas: Thank you.

Alia Beard Rau:Arizona Republic;

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