Lewis declines to speak ill of his adversary. At his announcement, he called Pearce "a friend" and swore off personal attacks against him during the campaign.

However, his declaration during his address that safeguarding Arizona's investment in education would be "one of my top priorities as a state senator" presents one of the starkest contrasts to Pearce, who continues to be overtly hostile to that same investment.

Pearce and the Legislature he led cut nearly half a billion dollars from the state's education budget, and the Senate president has shown little sympathy for cash-strapped institutions of higher learning or K-12 instruction.

Jerry Lewis, in the parlor of his Mesa home, ready to oust Pearce from office.
Stephen Lemons
Jerry Lewis, in the parlor of his Mesa home, ready to oust Pearce from office.

Recently, Pearce has attempted political plastic surgery on himself, vowing in his official recall statement, which will appear on the November ballot, to "continue to fight for education excellence."

Right. Only if such "excellence" is achieved by gutting education funds and robbing Mesa (not to mention the rest of Arizona's schools) of millions of much-needed dollars.

Ironically, Pearce recently received a "Golden Apple" award from a shill organization, the misleadingly named "Arizona Parents for Education," headed by Ann Robinett.

The press release announcing the award quickly was posted on right-wing blogs, including the one maintained by Maricopa County GOP chairman Rob Haney, a Pearce loyalist.

A little scrutiny makes clear how rotten this apple really is. Robinett serves as president of Arizona Virtual Academy, which allows students to study at home via computer.

Not to diss long-distance learning, but AVA's hardly a standard-bearer for traditional schools.

Add to this the fact that the guy pimping the organization is Republican operative Brian Murray of Lincoln Strategy Group, headed by GOP strategist Nathan Sproul.

Sproul's infamous in GOP circles for having sent out a series of attack mailers targeting Pearce in the 2008 primary, when Pearce was challenged by immigration attorney Kevin Gibbons.

Could this worm-eaten apple be a peace offering for past sins? When I called Murray to ask him just that, he acknowledged that he reps AVA but said he didn't want to talk to me and hung up.

This "award" is one example of the sort of shenanigans Pearce's camp and its facilitators will be pulling throughout the recall campaign. Because, in reality, the whole of Pearce's strategy comprises lies, shenanigans, and threats.

That and money raised by out-of-state independent expenditure committees, like the one recently created by the Virginia-based Team America PAC, headed by former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanan's wingnutty sis Bay Buchanan.

The outside help comes as Pearce's support in LD 18 continues to wither. It's been withering at least since 2010. During the 2010 election cycle, for instance, only eight contributions above $25 came from within LD 18.

Plus, in 2010, Pearce initially was not elected from LD 18 to be on the Republican Party's state committee, failing to become one of the 53 people so chosen.

Pearce was infuriated when this happened, and his supporters pulled strings — with the assistance of Pearce's pal Haney — to exploit a technicality declaring the results void.

Another vote was scheduled, and Pearce squeaked in, coming in dead last when then-chairman Paul Whetten read the names of the winners in the order of votes received.

Several of those present confirmed this to me off the record, asking that their names not be used for fear of retaliation from Pearce's thuggish supporters.

When I ran the tale by Whetten, he confirmed that Pearce was not elected the first time around.

"That's true," Whetten said. "But the results of that election were not valid because the meeting was not valid."

He declined to elaborate. Whetten is no longer LD 18 chair and now lives in LD 19.

The usual price for defying Pearce is harassment. Republicans who've bucked Pearce, inside or outside his district, have suffered screws to their tires, late-night knocks on the door by people who run before they can be eyeballed, threatening phone calls, and the usual blogosphere smears.

Former GOP state Representative Bill Koponicki has gone on the record with an account of the hazing he endured after voting no on a Pearce bill. Among the hate mail he received at his home was an anonymous death threat targeting him and his family.

He's blamed Pearce for helping incite the threats.

"I agree with Pearce on almost every issue," one active Mesa Republican told me on condition of anonymity. "But he's become a law unto himself . . . a vicious, vindictive SOB."

Indeed, Pearce's political adviser, the right-wing Svengali of GOP politics, Chuck Coughlin, recently was quoted in the Arizona Guardian, warning those opposing Pearce that there would be hell to pay.

After Coughlin's statement, a couple of days before Lewis announced, Lewis was assaulted while jogging with a friend. Someone threw a padlock at him from a passing vehicle, nailing Lewis in the groin.

Lewis was completing an early-morning 14-mile run in preparation for an upcoming marathon. The below-the-belt blow brought Lewis to his knees, temporarily.

A police report was filed. No one has yet been nabbed for the assault.

"I think it was random," Lewis told me, shrugging off speculation that a Pearce supporter was the culprit. "At least, I hope it was."

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