Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's New Nemesis: Republican Robert Worsley (w/Update)

Recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce has just encountered his first major obstacle in his revenge campaign for state Senate from Legislative District 25: Republican businessman Robert Worsley.

Today, the wealthy Mesa executive has announced that he'll be Pearce's rival in the Republican primary for LD 25, effectively upstaging Pearce's planned announcement tonight at a meeting of the Red Mountain Tea Party in Mesa.

Worsley is the guy who developed the lucrative SkyMall catalog, which you've no doubt encountered if you've taken an airplane trip in the last couple of decades. 

SkyMall was sold in 2001, and Worsley then became President, CEO and Chairman of Renegy Holdings, Inc., an innovative biomass fuels company, which converts waste and wood chips into clean energy.  According to his LinkedIn profile, Worsley is currently the CEO of the "land, minerals, and renewable energy company" NZ Legacy.

The entrance of Worsley into the race will be a nightmare for the nativist hatemonger Pearce. 

Worsley is a straight arrow, a former Eagle Scout and scoutmaster with a degree in accounting from Brigham Young University. And Worsley, like Pearce, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a significant factor considering the influence of the church in the East Valley.

However, unlike Pearce, Worsley has held a leadership position in the church. He's been the president of a 150-member Hispanic branch for the last seven years. And in contrast to the primary pimp of Arizona's breathing-while-brown law Senate Bill 1070, Worsley does not hate on his Latino brothers and sisters

Check this passage from his LDS profile:

"We have suffered with the Arizona law that encouraged those immigrants without proper documents to leave the State. I have fought for the rights of Latinos and to replace those lawmakers who were most extreme in their views. I learned to speak Spanish fluently when I served a 2 year mission in Uruguay and Paraguay in South America in the mid 1970's. I grew to love and appreciate the cultures south of the border. I am honored to serve with great men and women from Peru, Mexico, Argentina and other Latin countries. We are all God's children. We are all immigrants to this great country."

Talk about a ringer. Here's a man who is Pearce's superior in every respect. Pearce has never been a businessman, has never held a job for any length of time in the private sector. Moreover, Pearce lacks Worsley's education, financial achievements, and community and church service.

And where Pearce has made a name for himself as Arizona's best-known bigot, a poor representative of his church and his party, Worsley's c.v. seems to represent the best of both the LDS faith and Republicanism.

Although Pearce was expected to face off in the primary against Republican state Senator Rich Crandall, Crandall has not yet signaled his intentions. And sources tell me that Crandall will not run again.

Which makes Worsley's entry into the race even more significant. Suddenly, Pearce is looking at a possible repeat of his humiliating 12-point loss to political newcomer and now state Senator Jerry Lewis in 2011.

As this contest is in a GOP primary, instead of an open recall election where all qualified electors in that district can vote, the final tally will no doubt be closer. But Worsley's announcement means the battle is joined.

Oh, and I'm taking bets on when the Pearce campaign pulls its first dirty trick: 24 hours? One week? In the next five minutes...?

UPDATE: Here's the formal announcement just released by the Worsley camp. 

Mesa Conservative to run for Senate.

Bob Worsley, founder of SkyMall and a 30 year resident of the East Valley, announced today that he will seek the Senate seat in Mesa's new district 25. Bob, a member of Mitt Romney's Arizona finance committee, is a movement conservative and an entrepreneur, with broad experience in business development and operations in Arizona.

"I have been involved in politics and charitable causes in Arizona for many years as a volunteer. I have actively worked to support policies and organizations that promote religious freedom, strengthen families, and seek limited government involvement in our lives," Bob explained.

"Several business and civic leaders recently approached me and asked me to consider running for political office. I have never planned to run for office but my wife and I wish to serve our community at this stage of our lives. Arizona faces many challenges and I believe my past experience as an entrepreneur, a former CPA and cost cutter, is exactly what we need in politics right now. I hope to serve the citizens of Mesa in the Senate because I believe if we work together, we can elevate our politics, strengthen our economy, and prepare Mesa and Arizona for the next phase of growth and achievement."

Steve West, a Mesa attorney who has long been active in local civic affairs, said of Worsley, "Arizona is lucky that a man like Bob Worsley is running for office. People of his caliber rarely take the time to serve in politics. To have someone who understands business, accounting, energy, forestry, and who is so accomplished is an opportunity we rarely see in politics. More important than his impressive business accomplishments, Bob is a tremendous husband, father, and community servant. He is committed to the conservative principles loved by our community. Mesa is richly blessed to have such a quality candidate to elevate Mesa to greater heights."

Who is Bob Worsley?

Bob Worsley is a conservative businessman and has been a resident of the East Valley for 30 years. In 1989 he founded SkyMall and served as President and CEO. (At SkyMall, Mr. Worsley saw an opportunity to synergistically bring together airlines, catalogers and airline passengers with their "downtime".) SkyMall is now the largest in-flight catalog company in the United States. With catalogs in aircraft seatbacks, SkyMall offers in-flight shopping services to more than 95 percent of all domestic airlinepassengers each year through exclusive airline agreements with American, Delta, Southwest, United, US Airways and several smaller carriers. In July 2001 Mr. Worsley sold SkyMall to Mr. Murdocks' NewsCorp group and agreed to stay and transition SkyMall until November 2003.

In 1999 Worsley was named Arizona's Retail Entrepreneur of the year by Ernst and Young.

Prior to founding SkyMall, from 1985 to 1989, Mr. Worsley founded ExecuShare, Inc., that provided time-shared CFO's for smaller companies. From 1980 to 1985, Mr. Worsley was a CPA with Price Waterhouse, where he last held the position of Audit Manager. Mr. Worsley received a bachelor's degree in accounting from Brigham Young University in 1980.

Worsley retired from SkyMall in November 2003 to pursue the acquisition, expansion and development of the New Mexico and Arizona Land Company, LLC's rural assets which consisted of 100,000 acres of fee land and 1,000,000 acres of minerals. Today the company is successfully taking advantage of uranium, travertine, cattle andland assets in Arizona and New Mexico. Plans are underway to develop potash, salt, water, oil and gas, coal and other assets that have not been fully developed in the past.

In 2004, Worsley entered the Arizona energy field by founding and building a greenfield 25 megawatt biomass plant. His motivation came from a desire to clean up Arizona's forest lands after losing property in the June 2002 Rodeo Chediski Fire, then the largest forest fire in the history of the Southwest.

Bob Worsley served for several years on the Board of Directors for United Families International; a humanitarian interest involved in the preservation of the family unit. He has also served on the executive board of the Institute for American Values in NYC.

Bob Worsley has actively served his community as a leader in his church and as a participant in the Boy Scouts of America.

Bob has been married to Christi Worsley for 35 years. They have 6 children, 16 grandchildren and enjoy spending time together as a family.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons