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Parraz points out that Kevin Gibbons, who ran against Pearce in the 2008 LD 18 Republican primary, pulled about 31 percent of the GOP vote. That was when Pearce still was popular with his base.
He estimates that Lewis, whom he regards as a stronger candidate, could get as much 45 percent of the Republican vote.
"That's why the Cortes thing was so revealing," Parraz noted. "[Pearce supporters] didn't go to her because they wanted to — they went to her because they had to."
And yet the spectacle of Cortes and her people, who doubled as Pearce stalwarts, on the stand in Maricopa County Superior Court answering allegations of election fraud has soured many GOPers on Pearce. Attorney Tom Ryan and co-counsel H. Micheal Wright made fools of Tea Party members, signature-gatherers, and Cortes herself concerning her sham candidacy aimed at assisting Pearce.
The high-powered political consultants running and assisting Pearce's campaign — Chad Willems, Chuck Coughlin, and Constantin Querard — did not count on Tom Ryan taking Cortes to court and, ultimately, forcing her to withdraw her name as a candidate.
Her name remains on the ballot, of course, and she still could take votes from Lewis — though CBAers doing phone-banking to Spanish-speaking voters say everyone they speak with seems aware that Cortes is a fraud. She will not have the draw she would have had before Ryan forced her to take the stand and open up to the media.
The scandal haunts Pearce. The Arizona Secretary of State has referred its investigation of Cortes to the Arizona Attorney General's Office — which, in turn, conflicted it out to Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores. Then, there has been the lack of financial disclosure about who paid for Cortes' campaign signs and professional petition-circulators — as well as Dan Grimm's admitting to the press that he and his cohorts put Cortes on the ballot to hurt Lewis.
As this column went to press, 44 percent of early ballots had been returned to the county, a sign that participation could be better than expected for this historic, off-year election. If so, that's bad for Pearce, as a low turnout would be to his advantage.
If Pearce is clobbered on November 8, his political career is kaput. Disgraced by the defeat, he would not be able to offer his damaged goods for consideration after upcoming redistricting. That is, Pearce's residence could be in a different district, one represented currently by moderate Republican state Senator Rich Crandall.
Could he run for Congress or even for sheriff, should Arpaio opt out for 2012? He could, but he won't get far. Pearce cannot succeed in a larger political entity without being likable. For all his faults, Arpaio is likable. Nefarious, surely, but a schmoozer nonetheless.
By contrast, Pearce is a mean-spirited ideologue, loathed by Dems and, now, by many Republicans. He was able to rise to power in the manner he did only from the conservative postage stamp of LD 18.
But even if I'm wrong, there's a massive consolation prize:
Pearce will be wounded severely no matter what happens, and attorney Ryan vows to sue again should the incumbent manage a victory. Pearce, Willems, Coughlin, and Querard would be deposed under oath.
"I'm coming at Pearce like stage-four metastatic cancer," Ryan promised, if Pearce wins over Lewis. "We will get to the bottom of what they did and how they did it. We will leave no checkbook unturned."
And in light of that blood oath, the Pearce camp had better pray that Jerry Lewis is the next state senator from LD 18.