Russell Pearce can kiss his powerful seat in the Arizona Senate goodbye -- the current Senate president conceded defeat tonight to his opponent, Jerry Lewis, in this year's unprecedented recall election.
In another blow to the Valley's far-right-wingers, Democrat Greg Stanton defeated Tea Party-leaning Wes Gullett in the Phoenix mayoral race. More on that here.
As Pearce himself pointed out during his concession speech, "It doesn't look like the numbers are going in my direction with this."
Pearce didn't technically concede, but his campaign manager, Ed Phillips, later told reporters that was his intention.
"[Pearce's speech] was a concession," Phillips tells KTAR -- although, he didn't accept our phone call, or immediately respond to an e-mail.
With results in from each of Legislative District 18's 16 precincts, Pearce trailed Lewis by 8 percentage points -- 45 percent to Lewis' 53 percent -- lending credibility to the idea that cheaters never win. (Pearce, as you may recall, ran one of the slimier campaigns in recent memory -- trying to manipulate democracy by recruiting a sham candidate to steal votes from Lewis, for example.)
If the percentages hold in favor of Lewis, Pearce would be required to step down immediately after the results are official. That would make him the first sitting state Senate president in the history of the United States to ever lose a recall election.
Pearce, author of Arizona's controversial immigration legislation, Senate Bill1070, is the first lawmaker to be recalled in the history of Arizona. His ties to the recent Fiesta Bowl scandal, as well as his fierce anti-immigrant policies, apparently turned off the majority of LD 18 voters -- many of whom voted for him in last year's election.
"If being recalled means keeping your promises, then so be it," Pearce told reporters and supporters just after 9 p.m.
Pearce's ouster, as some of his more-moderate GOP colleagues in the Senate have told New Times, should serve as a message to other Republican lawmakers that they need to take a more moderate approach to immigration reform -- unless they want to go the route of their now-ousted leader, that is.
Pearce's future is unclear. There was a lot of talk among his supporters about his running for the seat from which he was booted next year. There was also discussion of the soon-to-be-former Senate president running for higher office.
"Regardless of what you may hear," Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio tells New Times (while poking us in the chest). "[Russell] is a kind guy when you get to know him...knowing Russell, he's not gonna go away and hide. He may have other plans. If he does [run for office], no matter what he runs for, I'm gonna support him."
The sheriff went on to tell us that "the only Jerry Lewis I know is a comedian," but if Lewis (LD 18's new senator, not the aging comedian) wants to work with him, his door always is open.
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