Longform

Activist Randy Parraz Led an Army of Non-Partisan Warriors to Take Down Russell Pearce

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As late as July 29, the Capitol Times' Christian Palmer, associate editor of the paper's Yellow Sheet, wrote off Lewis, stating, "So far, all the signs are pointing to a disappointing blowout, with Pearce clobbering political newbie Jerry Lewis."

Chad Snow chalks up such predictions to an inability to understand the process that was going on.

"They didn't see the advantage of this kind of race," Snow said, "which is essentially an open primary."

That is, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans together could vote against Pearce and for his opponent as a part of the recall election.

In addition, the press wasn't watching Mesa closely. If it had been, it would have seen the plethora of Lewis signs in Mormon yards. If reporters had been going out with CBAers as they canvassed hundreds of doors a day or listened in as they made hundreds of calls to the homes of LD 18 voters, they wouldn't have needed conservative polls to point them in the right direction.

I watched as volunteers scrambled to pick up early ballots. CBAers encouraged folks to fill out their early ballots on the spot, seal them, and turn them over to volunteers, who then dropped them off at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office.

Whenever someone brought in an early ballot to CBA's Mesa office, Parraz inevitably would smile and say, "Gimme some skin," high-fiving the volunteer.

And if someone scored more than one ballot, he or she earned cheers from fellow CBAers.

On the day before the election, CBA dropped off nearly 200 such ballots to the county. Ballots that might never have otherwise been mailed or counted.

Victory is made of such vignettes. But because the reporters and pundits in question never eyeballed them, all they had to go on was their own hot air.

Nor can the arrogant, bullying, creepy campaign waged by Pearce and his allies be discounted.

As New Times reported, Chandler attorney Tom Ryan, along with co-counsel H. Micheal Wright, sued sham candidate Olivia Cortes, forcing her and her Tea Party enablers into court, where she was exposed and ultimately forced to withdraw her diversionary candidacy.

It was a candidacy many still believe Pearce operative Constantin Querard ultimately was responsible for, one encouraged and aided by Pearce supporters and family members. One which Pearce and his top handlers, Chad Willems and Chuck Coughlin, had to be aware of.

I believe this is because the Pearce camp had no faith in the electoral process, no faith in Pearce as a candidate. What they were left with were lies and chicanery. Cortes was one manifestation of this. Others included fake websites and Twitter accounts, misleading robo-calls and mailers.

"Pearce was either getting the worst political advice of his career," Snow said of the missteps. "Or he was getting good advice but was just too stubborn to take it."

Based on my sources and my observations, Pearce, Willems, Coughlin, Querard, and all of Pearce's goofy Tea Party worshipers were down from day one with whatever it took to assure Pearce's survival. Ethical violations and alleged lawbreaking? No problem, as long as their candidate triumphed.

I've got to wonder if they learned anything. That is, that their shenanigans backfired, that they lost because of them.

I'm guessing not.

Parraz's next target? He's returning to his first target, Joe Arpaio. No, not a recall, he says. The sheriff already is heading for a re-election campaign in 2012, so there's no point in starting a recall effort, which would need nearly 400,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot in a countywide election.

His CBA plans to be the tip of the spear, an independent-expenditure committee that can do attack ads, raise money, and dog Arpaio's every step.

As for Pearce, Parraz doesn't see him having much of a career after this, but should Pearce try to run again — say, for Arpaio's spot someday — he's got a message for the former most powerful politician in Arizona.

"I hope he does [go for elective office again]," Parraz says, his eyes glinting at the possibility. "Because then we'll go ballistic."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons