Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's "Friends" List Contains Jerry Lewis Supporters, and, Apparently, Dead People

Remember that line from M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, "I see dead people"? Well, if you're familiar with the residents of Mesa, you'll see some deceased individuals on state Senate President Russell Pearce's campaign Web site, as part of his lengthy "Friends of Russell" list.

You'll also see some names of the living that are on the much shorter "Endorsements" list posted on Pearce-foe Jerry Lewis' Web site, including John Giles, co-campaign chair for the Lewis campaign.

"Sounds like I'm in good company," Giles, an attorney and former Mesa City Council member told me. "I'm a little surprised. I didn't give my consent [to Pearce], so it's a mystery."

Giles explained that the Lewis campaign has authorization from everyone on its list for the use of their names.

"There's nobody on our list that we don't have a signature for," he averred.

I've received calls from some folks alerting me to the fact their names are improperly on Pearce's roll call of pals, but they wished to remain anonymous.

One person whose name has been taken off at his request is attorney Brent Ellsworth. When I phoned him, he explained that about two weeks ago, he noticed his name and his wife's name on Pearce's list without his permission.

So he wrote Pearce directly via e-mail and fax, asking for their names to be taken off as they are Lewis supporters. Hours later, their names were off, but he's received no explanation from the Pearce camp.

"I think it's deceptive," he said. "It gives the impression that all of those people support him in the current campaign."

Ellsworth theorized that the list is old, ancient even, and pointed out that, "There are people on there who are dead."

Though I was able to spot a handful of names for which I could also find obituaries, I feel a little odd about publishing their names until I can contact next of kin. 

However, I was able to talk with Mesa resident Helen DeGroff, now Helen DeGroff-Pitman, widow of the late Leon (Lee) DeGroff, who passed away in 2010, according to a notice from a local funeral home.

Told that her late husband is listed as a FOR, she exclaimed, "Well, you'll have to take him off!"

That'll be up to the Senator's campaign, I'm afraid, as I can't get anyone from the Pearce camp to return my calls these days. I also have to allow for the possibility, slight though it may seem, that there's another "Helen and Lee DeGroff" out there.

Between the two lists, I counted 36 duplicates. Hypothetically, I suppose you could be a "friend" of Pearce while at the same time "endorsing" Lewis. 

But Ellsworth's speculation about the list being old seems more plausible. For instance, Legislative District 19 precinct comitteeperson Pat Oldroyd is identified as "Chairman Ld 19." She was once, but is no longer.

Similarly, Pearce loyalist Matt Tolman is referenced as "Chairman Ld 18," though he is not currently the chair of the LD 18 GOP.

Even if it's an old list, Ellsworth said he found it "reckless" and "presumptuous" of Pearce to use that list without vetting the names and making sure these people still support him.

As for the dead folk, I reckon it's OK if they support Pearce from beyond the grave, as long as they don't try to vote for him on November 8. 

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