Feathered Bastard

Nathan Sproul speaks about his anti-Russell Pearce flier, and fighting for the soul of the Republican Party.

Side one of the Nathan Sproul-authored mailer.

The reverse of the same flier, which began hitting Mesa mailboxes today.

It's better than ESPN, better than football, better even than those pay-per-view Girls Gone Wild ads on late night cable. (No, really.) I mean the kvetching and donnybrooking on the conservative blogs, specifically the Sonoran Alliance, about the attack flier first made public by Espresso Pundit, which is pictured above. (You can get a closer look at it, here.)

"What if your state lawmaker violently attacked his wife?" it asks next to the face of a woman who appears to be in pain. "Meet Representative Russell Pearce."

The flip side is equally trenchant.

"According to court records, Rep. Russell Pearce strangled his wife," it reads. "Now he wants amnesty from us? Rep. Russell Pearce, not fit to serve."

The author of this perfumed icepick to the kidneys is none other than Republican strategist Nathan Sproul of Tempe's Lincoln Strategy Group (formerly Sproul and Associates), also the chairman of Mesa Deserves Better, one of a couple of independent expenditure committees aimed at taking down Russell Pearce this year. Sproul is a very, very conservative Republican, one who has backed gay marriage bans and the like. He makes no excuses, either for the flier, or for wanting to clean Russell Pearce's clock.

I called Sproul to see if the flier, which has made its rounds on the Internet, is hitting actual mailboxes in Legislative District 18. That's where Pearce is in a political deathmatch against attorney Kevin Gibbons in the Republican primary for the state Senate seat vacated by Republican crazy lady Karen Johnson. Sproul assured me that untold thousands of the fliers would be landing in those boxes beginning today.

"It's a robust mailing, I can tell you that," commented Sproul. "If somebody is a voter in that district, they are going to see this."

Sproul explained that the mailer is but one in a series targeting Pearce on a number of issues where at least some of his fellow Republicans have found the Mesa pit bull wanting.

"I think that [Pearce's] offenses are so egregious, there's really not a nice way to tell this story," Sproul told me. "When you come out with the brutal truth of who Russell Pearce is, it's shocking. In my decade-long career of being a political operative, I've never put out a mail piece like this. We discussed it internally for some time before we did it. It gets people's attention, no doubt."

Indeed, one can imagine the horror on the faces of the ladies of Mesa as they open this mailer, which is based in large part on an item that ran in my Bird column recently, where I outed the 28-year-old petition for divorce from Pearce's wife LuAnne. In it she accused Pearce of being "possessed of a violent temper," and of having "from time to time" hit and shoved her, including an incident in February of 1980 when he "grabbed [her] by the throat and threw her down."

In response, both Pearces claimed the events alleged in the sworn, notarized document never occurred, and have pointed fingers at the attorney who prepared the document, E. Evans Farnsworth, now a pro-tem judge in Chandler. Farnsworth, 69, has insisted that he would not have included such a statement if it had not come from his interview back then with LuAnne, but he had no recollection of Pearce or the document.

Many conservatives have reacted in a howl of outrage, neglecting the fact that Pearce is calling into question his wife's sworn petition, while impugning the reputation of a pro-tem judge, who has no stake in whether Pearce is elected to the Arizona Senate or not.

Nonetheless, Sproul is defiant of the backlash from conservative bloggers, and radio pundits such as former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. He denied that this had anything to do with money, or with his beef with Pearce over the state's new employer sanctions law.

"This has nothing to do with any of those issues," Sproul insisted. "The bigger issue is whether or not the Republican Party in this state is going to become the Republican Party of John McCain and Jon Kyl, or the Republican Party of Russell Pearce. And that is a battle that unfortunately we have to have, because we have to cleanse our own house."

Sproul continued, making the Pearce-Gibbons primary sound like a war for the soul of the Republican Party here in sand Land:

"If we allow the fringe element of the Russell Pearce, J.D. Hayworth, John Birch Society wing of the party to become the dominant voice as to what the Republican Party in Arizona believes, we will be a minority party for a very long time in this state. This campaign is by far and away one of the smallest clients we have. That's not why I did it. I did it because I believe somebody needed to stand up and ask the question of what we want the Republican Party in Arizona to stand for. What Russell Pearce wants it to stand for is not what I want it to stand for."

Can't wait to see what those other mailers Sproul has up his sleeve look like. The bloggers and radio wing-nuts may not like it, but this fight over the influence of Russell Pearce in their party has been a long time coming. Local tuskers (you know, as in elephant) can either side with Pearce and be the party of bigots and brutes. Or they can go back to being the party of businessmen and patriots. You wouldn't think it'd be a tough choice.

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