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Russell Pearce Is On the Ropes, Even if the Horizon Brain Trust Can't See It

Some political theorists have referred to it as "manufacturing consent." I like to call it the propaganda of the status quo.

And then there's another, even more damning label: downright laziness.

Whatever you call it, it's often on full display on KAET Channel 8's Horizon, hosted by the genial and admittedly likable talking head Ted Simons.


Stephen Lemons

Simons chairs the PBS show's weekly "Journalists Roundtable" segment, in which local members of the Fourth Estate don suits and hold forth on current events. Local hacks, news junkies, and politicians frequently tune in for the segment and the show, in general.

Interestingly, Horizon reveals the collective, lemming-like mindset so common to the media "elite" — such as it is — locally.

I'm sure those who regularly appear on Simons' show would proclaim their neutrality, if asked. In reality, they represent the political establishment and have inculcated its dictates so thoroughly that their response to anything outside the veil of their experience is practically Pavlovian.

Like the recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce by the group Citizens for a Better Arizona, which recently submitted more than 18,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State in support of its effort to remove this right-wing ogre from office.

On a recent edition of the roundtable, four white guys in ties pooh-poohed the recall's historic achievement with outright misinformation.

The Arizona Guardian's Dennis Welch seemed to sum up his fellow journos' dismissive views of those citizens who gathered signatures.

"Eighteen-thousand signatures? Big deal," Welch scoffed. "You got paid petition gatherers out there . . . getting signatures. That's a lot different than getting people to go out to the polls and vote against somebody who has held that office for a very long time and who is really well known and popular in that area."

Who knew scoring 18,000 signatures was so dang easy? Wonder why it doesn't happen all the freaking time?

Did the recall group use paid petition gatherers? Yes, CBA contracted with the company Sign Here Petitions, but the majority of those gathering signatures were volunteers.

How do I know? I went out with them and watched as they knocked on doors, which I described in a recent column ("Russell Pearce Is His Own Worse Enemy," April 14).

There also are the declarations of recall organizer Randy Parraz and Sign Here Petition owner Bonita Burks, who estimate that about one-third of the signatures were gathered by SHP employees.

So it's a slur on the committed activists who did most of the hard work going door-to-door and making phone calls to assert that the recall scored just because paid petition gatherers were involved.

"Part of the story is that the majority of the [pro-recall] people are white people over 50 who have been doing the work," Parraz told me. "That's not getting [talked about]."

Parraz chided the nattering knights of Simons' clown table, who insisted the recall effort was fueled by anger over Pearce's breathing-while-brown law, Senate Bill 1070. Parraz correctly pointed out that though he personally was opposed to 1070, the recall effort purposefully did not press the immigration issue.

This is borne out by the text on CBA's website, which does not mention 1070 or immigration. And by the wording of the petition itself, which I reproduce here in case Welch or the other clown-tablers wish to read it:

"We, Citizens for a Better Arizona and residents of District 18, submit this petition to recall State Senator Russell Pearce for his failure to focus on issues and concerns that affect all Arizonans.

"Mesa and Arizona need a leader who will pass laws to create jobs, protect public education, and ensure access to healthcare for our children and those most in need. We deserve a representative who reflects our values, beliefs, and vision for Mesa and all of Arizona.

"By signing this petition, we publicly withdraw our support for Russell Pearce and what he represents."

Welch is correct that Pearce has represented LD18 for many years. What's changed? His ascension to the state Senate presidency, making him the most powerful politician in Arizona.

This — along with his hostility to education and to those reliant on AHCCCS (Arizona's Medicaid system), his dictatorial style, his corruption and ethical lapses, and his self-evident bigotry — makes him the perfect recall target.

Did the residents of LD18 vote for this aggro racist to be King of Sand Land? Um, no. Nor did anyone other than the hoodwinked members of the GOP caucus in the Senate, who believed Pearce's oath that he would be putting the issue of immigration on the legislative backburner.

You can be in complete agreement with Pearce on 1070 and otherwise be disgusted by the following: his support for state Senator Scott Bundgaard, his prevarications concerning his involvement in the Fiesta Bowl scandal, his heavy-handed "banning" of citizens from the state Senate on threat of arrest, his illegal effort to undermine the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

No wonder the recall has been successful in getting eligible LD18 voters to sign on the line that is dotted.

As for the contention of the clown-tablers and others that the anti-Pearce forces will never get enough voters to the polls to topple Pearce, whether the election happens in November 2011 or March 2012, Parraz has a devastating reply:

"We have about 10,000 people in our database [who] are going to vote against Russell Pearce. Whoever the candidate is. We've got 10,000 votes banked."

That's because the recall effort was validating the signatures up until about the 10,000 mark, according to Parraz. Knowing it had more than the 7,756 signatures required under state law to force a recall, the rest was gravy.

On the clown table, the Phoenix Business Journal's Mike Sunnucks opined that the recall folks will have it tough in LD18 because Pearce "works that district hard."

Actually, Pearce rarely campaigns on his home turf and takes it for granted each election cycle that LD18 voters will march in lockstep behind him.

In the 2010 general election, 17,552 did just that. But relatively unknown Democratic and Libertarian candidates together pulled 13,471. Do the math. Pearce won by a mere 4,081 votes.

So Pearce can be beaten.

Probably not by a Dem. But a conservative Republican who is not a full-on nutcase could do the job.

I give Sunnucks credit for pointing out that Pearce is vulnerable, even if he thinks the pal of a neo-Nazi ("The Company He Kept," December 16) will prevail ultimately. And he correctly noted that the recall effort has hobbled possible Pearce runs for either the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate.

But none of these bozos seemed to grok that this handicapping of Pearce is, in and of itself, a major accomplishment.

Pearce obviously believes he's at risk in his own district. His recent lies concerning the recall effort offer ample evidence that once the signatures were turned over to the Secretary of State, he knew he had a donnybrook on his hands.

In press releases and appearances on national news shows, Pearce refers to the recall folks as "a group of outsiders" and "extreme leftist anarchists." Neither is true.

Citizens for a Better Arizona chairman Chad Snow is a registered Republican and a Mormon, to boot. (LD18 is heavily Mormon.) He has dwelled in Arizona all his life and attended law school at Arizona State University.

Parraz ran for the U.S. Senate in the 2010 Democratic primary. He's lived in Sand Land on and off, from 2002 to 2004 and then from 2007 to present.

Fox 10 recently ran an excellent segment on a press conference at recall headquarters in Mesa. Individual after individual testified that they were LD18 residents and supported the drive to oust Pearce.

One of these was Liana Clarkson, a Mesa Public Schools teacher and a lifelong Republican who has donated money to GOPers such as U.S. Senator John McCain and Congressman Jeff Flake. Clarkson stated that as the grandmother of 26, "there's no time for leftist anarchy in my life."

What about the thousands of registered LD18 voters who inked the petitions? Are they "anarchists" and "outsiders," as well? Moreover, what sort of "anarchist" worthy of the name works hand-in-hand with government officials at the Secretary of State's Office to make certain that the letter of the law regarding recalls is being followed?

Pearce knows he's in trouble. But instead of doing town halls and trying to shore up his base, he's spending time raising money from out-of-state interests. You know, those "outsiders" he claims are trying to mess things up.

A hastily formed anti-recall committee, Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall, is now active, and Pearce has been pimping its website in the national media and in e-mail blasts.

By contrast, Parraz tells me that almost all the $30,000-plus collected by the recall effort was from inside Arizona. He said 93 percent of online donations and most of the checks received were from locals.

Of the 18,315 signatures Parraz and his cohorts submitted to the Secretary of State's Office, 16,949 were forwarded on the Maricopa County Recorder's Office, which will now verify each John Hancock. Parraz believes some petition sheets were wrongly tossed by the SOS, and he plans to take this up with the state office.

Still, even the clown table doesn't doubt that Parraz has the signatures needed. A recall election now is a foregone conclusion. It wasn't in late January, when the Phoenix media corps barely knew a Pearce recall had begun.

That's why Lisa Hauser, the anti-recall committee's lawyer, has been killing trees writing letters to State Elections Director Amy Bjelland, trying to throw a wrench into the process.

Hauser complained that the recall effort had violated campaign-finance laws by not notifying the SOS when it went over $10,000 in contributions.

Incorrect, Bjelland shot back. The statute Hauser cited does not apply to recalls. Bjelland, by the way, is a Republican.

Bjelland also informed Hauser that recall and anti-recall committees cannot accept donations from unions or corporations.

Hauser wrote back that the anti-recall committee will "urge all potential contributors" that they are free to exercise their "constitutional rights."

What constitutional right would that be? To break the law? Talk about anarchists.

Such shenanigans are to be expected from the Pearce camp.

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Local media nudniks have zero excuses for going to bat for Pearce, however. Not that Simons is the only one. Editorials in the Arizona Capitol Times and in the Arizona Republic have been dishing Pearce's balderdash as well.

Rep fuddy-duddy Rob Robb authored one. Simons recently had Robb on solo to discuss his views on why the Pearce recall is an "abuse" of the political process.

Next time, Simons, think about having someone appear opposite Robb to counter his feeble, dull-witted sophistry. Snow or Parraz, for instance.

Otherwise, you're just a shill for Pearce. And when Pearce falls — as I predict he will — you'll have been looking the wrong way as history was made right under your nose.

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