Chief Justice Berch (left) and Lewis, just following the swearing-in
Chief Justice Berch (left) and Lewis, just following the swearing-in

Russell Pearce's Nemesis Jerry Lewis Sworn In as Arizona State Senator

Christmas came early this year, I thought to myself, as Jerry Lewis, the man who played David to ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce's Goliath in the Legislative District 18 recall, was sworn in this afternoon on the Senate floor by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch.

Yep, Christmas. And Hanukkah, and New Years, and Thanksgiving, and Kwanzaa. All wrapped into one, with a big shiny bow on top.

This gift wasn't gratis, of course. It came only after several months of a political slugfest between Lewis and Pearce. And before that, there was the marathon effort to make the recall election itself a reality.

But then, nothing worth doing is easy.

The ceremony itself was over in seconds. Lewis was then shown to his new desk by Senator Steve Yarbrough and incoming Senate President Steve Pierce.

The desk sits in the far back, near the open doors of an antechamber where a portrait of Russell Pearce still hangs in a place of honor, oblivious to its master's absence.

You'd think the weight of irony alone would cause that pic to come crashing down. But, hey, Pearce's mug also remains for the moment on the state Senate website. I guess it takes a minute before housekeeping catches up with history.

Smiling and ever-affable, Lewis played the part of modest rock-star, the focus of dozens of cameras, journos and fellow politicos. Well-wishers, supporters and the curious watched from the public seating looking down into the chamber.

He took a moment to introduce various members of his family, including his wife Janet, before the press descended on him.

I enjoyed listening as Spanish-language reporters peppered Lewis with questions en Espanol, with Lewis answering in kind. I checked the Pearce portrait to see if it was self-immolating in protest.

Nope, Pearce was still there, two-dimensional, insensate.  

Once the pack gave way, I congratulated Lewis, asking him if Arizona was finally ready for an Arizona Compact, like the renowned Utah Compact, which advocates a balanced, humane approach to immigration reform.

He agreed such a statement of principles was needed, but said that the first job of the Legislature should be improving the state's economy. 

I'd read that Governor Jan Brewer had called to congratulate him recently, and stated as much. Lewis noted that she had actually called last week, leaving a gracious message on his voice mail, before he called her back.

What about Pearce? Had Pearce contacted him since Lewis' 12-point victory on November 8?

Lewis told me that Pearce had not, with a shrug and a boyish grin. 

Though there have been press accounts of nastiness from Lewis' fellow GOPers, everyone was on their best behavior today. Even erstwhile Pearce toadies such as Andy Biggs seemed eager to please.

Afterward, folks meandered outside into a mild, sunshine-y November Tuesday, the kind that makes you forget Arizonans live in an open-air oven during the summer months, and then some.

Lewis and his wife posed for shots just beneath the gold letters that say, "State Senate," on the outside of the building. As he began to walk back to his car with his wife and others, he stopped a moment before me.

"It's a beautiful day, Senator," I said, looking around and up at a Carolina-blue sky.

"In more ways than one," he observed before heading off.

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