Russell Pearce's Comeuppance? Don't Count Him Out Just Yet

The Killer Shark of the Senate, always on the attack
The Killer Shark of the Senate, always on the attack

They're practically singing hosannas in the streets, the pro-immigration folks, or just those who'd like to see an end to Arizona's tsunami of hate. This, over the defeat of five anti-immigrant bills on the state Senate floor yesterday, including Senate President Russell Pearce's "immigration omnibus" Senate Bill 1611, and the dual efforts to undermine birthright citizenship, Senate Bills 1308 and 1309.

As cynical as I tend to be, I agree that it is a victory. Pearce was handed his lunch pail Thursday. Think of it, he commands an overwhelming majority, usually with an iron claw. With only nine Democrats to his 21 Republicans. Pearce should be able to pass blank strips of paper, if he wanted. 

But a pack of seven to ten tuskers went rogue on the bills, bucking the most powerful man in the state by voting down the anti-"anchor baby" legislation and 1611 as well as proposals to turn school and hospital workers into de facto ICE agents. (Not all of those Rs voted no on all five bills, hence the seven-to-ten range.)

For the most part, they were not motivated by concern for the plight of Latinos in this state. Oh, no. It was all about money, and the fact that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry was outspoken in its opposition to all of this legislation. 

Last year, the Chamber was neutral on Senate Bill 1070, and it was blindsided by a boycott that negatively impacted its members and the state as a whole. On the Chamber's Web site, Chamber president Glenn Hamer offered this gruesome metaphor for the "wreck" of 1070:

When I was a sophomore in high school, my driver's education teacher was a big believer in the "scared straight" method of preparing teenagers to get behind the wheel. He made it a point to show his classes accident scene photos to drill into our young brains the gravity of the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle.

My teacher would show us a photo full of mangled metal and broken glass and say, referring to the victims, "This accident wasn't their fault." And then after a dramatic pause he'd say, "And guess what: They're still dead."

Hamer sees the "victims" as Arizona's businesses, impacted by the crash and burn of the boycott of Arizona over 1070. His first concern is not for the undocumented, but rather that bigotry is bad for business.

Ditto the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, which weighed in with a letter from muck-a-mucks heading up such heavy hitting businesses as US Airways and Cox Communications

"It is an undeniable fact that each of our companies and our employees were impacted by the boycotts and the coincident negative image," the letter stated, in an effort to wean legislators off Pearce's anti-immigrant Kool-Aid.

It's important to note that if groups such as the Phoenix civil rights group Puente, the California-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and other such groups across the nation had not championed the Arizona boycott, the business community would not have been as steadfast as they've been on these current bills. 

In other words, the boycott hurt Arizona businesses, big and small, and those businesses reacted by jumping up and down when Pearce went back on his promise to put immigration on the backburner and focus on the economy.

Ultimately, this pressure from the business community worked, along with promises made, undoubtedly, for monetary help to those Republicans who may face a primary opponent hand-picked by Pearce.

That's Pearce's big stick -- the threat that he'll recruit a "Tea Party" alternative to battle a recalcitrant GOPer in a primary. And that threat, potentially, could still turn things around. If a motion to reconsider is offered on Monday, and it passes, then those bills can come up again during this session.

The concern from former, Democratic House minority leader John Loredo and others is that over the weekend, Pearce will try to "flip" one Republican who voted against the bill. That Republican would have the right to offer the motion under Senate rules, and Monday is the last day it can be done.

I wouldn't be surprised if Pearce even gives nativists the personal cell numbers of those he's targeting, so they can barrage the legislators with phone calls.

Should the motion pass, it will give Pearce time to try and flip other Republicans. Pearce apparently knew he didn't have the votes to pass the legislation on Thursday. But by outing the rebel Republicans via their no votes, he makes them targets of Pearce's allies.

Democratic State Senator Kyrsten Sinema told me she believes the bills are dead for the rest of the session. 

"If there's a motion to reconsider Monday, it will fail," she told me. 

She may be right. Sources indicate that neither House Speaker Kirk Adams, nor Governor Jan Brewer want the bills to pass, and that both have been working behind the scenes to kill them.

There are other ways Pearce can bring back the bills (as strike-everythings and/or putting them on the ballot), but if he lacks the votes, he lacks the votes. So Monday is a crucial day. Still, if he can't bring them back this session, there's always the next.

If Pearce's defeat on these bills is sustained this session, it could be the first crack in his facade of invincibility. But Pearce is like a shark, relentless, always on the move. And until he's removed from power altogether, the forces of reason can never sleep soundly.

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