Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Arizona: Senate Majority Leader Pearce loses seat in Recall

According to the Arizona Secretary of State's website, with 100% of the precincts reporting, Arizona Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce has lost his recall election to challenger Jerry Lewis. Turnout appears to be 29% of registered voters. 

Pearce is the first sitting state legislative leader to be ousted in a recall, and the 16th (of 30, with one outstanding) state legislator to lose a seat in the 103 year history of state legislative recalls. Pearce is the first Arizona state official to be recalled.

Pearce was the third state legislative leader to face a recall. The first was California President Pro Tempore David Roberti in 1994. The second was Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon in 2008. Both of men triumphed. See the details here.

There was one other recall of a former legislative leader, though the circumstances were so bizarre that it has to be separated out. Without going into too much details about the California recall wars of 1995, Republican Doris Allen backed the Democrats in a closely divided Assembly that had already seen two recall votes. Allen was elected Speaker of the Assembly and served for a little over 3 months, but she stepped down before her recall. She lost her recall race.

According to the Arizona law, Pearce is actually able to demand reimbursement for his election costs. No one is sure how that will work, but more on that here.

Pearce was ousted by a fellow Republican. This has happened in the past, including in 2003, when Wisconsin Senator Gary George lost to a fellow Democrat in his recall primary.

Pearce is the first recall of a state official in Arizona history. Arizona actually has a great history with the recall. The state's original constitution provided for the recall of judges. William Howard Taft vetoed the constitution, resulting in heavy criticism from Teddy Roosevelt and a big campaign issue in the 1912 election. Additionally, Governor Evan Mecham was all set to face a recall in 1988, but was impeached and convicted before the recall took place.

The state has noteworthy local recalls, including the recall of the "worst boss in America."

The recall originally featured three candidates, Pearce, Lewis and Olivia Cortes. Cortes was widely believed to be a spoiler -- a candidate run by Pearce to siphon anti-Pearce votes away from Lewis. The court originally ruled that she would stay on the ballot, but then Cortes dropped out, but her name stayed on the ballot. Despite dropping out, Cortes pulled in 252 votes, or 1.24%. 

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