Russell Pearce Recall Election Headed for November Ballot

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I'm cooking up some barbecued black bird for all of my colleagues in the local press who pooh-poohed the recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce. 

First slice goes to lifelong hack Howie Fischer

The rest of the crow flesh is for all of the members of Horizon's clown table, that circle of not-so-eminent journos who pontificate with impunity on the local KAET Channel 8 show hosted by the ever-affable Ted Simons.

What about Linda "Wrong Way" Bentley of the Sonoran News, who has alleged "massive voter registration fraud" in the recall petitions sans evidence? She gets the beak.

See, this morning, Maricopa County Elections completed its review of the recall signatures and handed the whole kit and caboodle back to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office

Final count: 10,365 valid sigs from qualified electors residing in Pearce's Legislative District 18. That's 2,609 more than the 7,756 needed to force a recall.

And because the county has finished its work early, and since the Secretary of State's Office says it will likely be finished with its secondary review either today or Monday, it means Pearce is headed for a November recall election, unless he chooses to save us all the trouble and resign.

(UPDATE: Shortly after posting this item, the Secretary of State's Office confirmed to me that it has finished its review, and that the minimum number of signatures necessary has been exceeded. Pearce can either step down or face the voters. His choice.)

SOS spokesman Matt Roberts told me that it's "safe to assume" the recall election will occur in November, barring any unforeseen legal snafus.

Pearce and his allies will have ten days to challenge the signatures in Superior Court, but County Elections Director Karen Osborne said she is ready to stand behind the work of her office.

"I feel very comfortable with the certification," Osborne explained. "We'll see if the Pearce people take it to court to challenge anything. They certainly have a right to do that, to disagree with what I've found."

But knocking off more than 2,609 signatures will only take place in the delusional gray matter of Pearce's supporters. Sure, they'll challenge. But they will lose.

Osborne told me her people found duplicate signatures, and entries with no signatures, stuff like that. Bentley's ravings notwithstanding, there's no hanky-panky in the petitions.

"I found no evidence of voter registration fraud," Osborne explained, though she pointed out that doing so wasn't her mandate. The county's task was to validate the signatures, and throw out those that did not meet the bar. And this has been done.

Although there was supposed to be a school board election in Mesa in November, that's been withdrawn. So the Pearce recall will stand alone on the ballot.

Ultimately, it will be Governor Jan Brewer who will issue the official order for a recall election, but her actions are outlined by state statute, which doesn't give her any wiggle room.

The election will be nonpartisan. Even Pearce's name will not indicate his party. Challengers will have to score a mere 621 valid signatures to jump on the ballot.

That's a low threshold, and Roberts said he expects people to begin forming campaign committees as soon as the SOS's review is finished. (See update above.)

Randy Parraz, co-founder of the recall committee Citizens for a Better Arizona, was a little more reserved in his predictions.

Though he called today's certification by the county a "political earthquake," he told me that he thought it was still too soon for serious candidates to start collecting sigs, and anticipated that happening within "a couple of weeks," once the challenge process is over.

Parraz suggested that the anti-Pearce forces may try to draft a candidate, and start collecting sigs to put the right name on the ballot, even if that person is undeclared.

Regarding the naysayers who insist that Pearce cannot be beaten in LD18, I would have you keep this in mind: These are the same rocket scientists who scoffed at the effort to force a recall and predicted it would fail.

They were wrong, and can be wrong again.

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