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Russell Pearce's Problem with the Rule of Law; and Andrei Cherny Contends for Democratic Party Chair

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In news I broke in my Feathered Bastard blog, former Democratic Attorney General candidate Felecia Rotellini has decided not to run to replace Don Bivens as chair of the Arizona Democratic Party ("Rotellini Out," January 3).

That's the bad news. The good news is that an equally qualified candidate, ex-state treasurer contender Andrei Cherny, has plunged into the fray headfirst.


The Bird

Cherny had been seriously considering the move since November, but he made it official in a phone call to me this week, also reported first in Feathered Bastard ("Cherny Announces Bid," January 4).

"We need in this era a strong transition and a strong messenger," Cherny said. "One who'll really be able to make the case to Arizonans why Democrats have the right ideas for the state's economy and all the other challenges that face us."

Though Cherny was not able to best Republican Doug Ducey in the battle for the state treasurer's post, he boasts a laundry list of formidable talents that would aid the party in becoming relevant in Arizona politics again.

Among these are communication and fundraising skills — and friends in high places. He was once an adviser to President Bill Clinton, who actually came to Phoenix to stump for Cherny at a fundraiser in April 2010.

Cherny, a former assistant Arizona attorney general, is tough. He's Jim Carville-smart on politics. And he's Bill Clinton-smart on messaging to the masses. Plus, he knows how to raise beaucoup cash.

Also, he's a progressive who knows how to lead. Add youth and vigor, and you've got a winning combination.

If Bivens can hand the reins to Cherny on January 22, during the party's reorganization meeting, the Dems might finally be on the track to revivification.

But it's far from being a done deal. At the party's gloomy, post-election meeting in November, Bivens stated that he would run for re-election, unless a viable candidate emerged.

Now that one has, Bivens is expected to withdraw, but he had made no definitive statement by the time this column went to press.

The other scorpion in the cactus patch is Tucsonan Rodney Glassman, he of "Sweet Home Arizona" YouTube fame.

Glassman's failed and quixotic attempt to oust crotchety GOP flip-flopper U.S. Senator John McCain more than disappointed many Dems. It ticked them off.

Indeed, it's fair to say Glassman, who has been running hard for the chairmanship, is generally reviled among the party faithful, save for a small cadre of cheerleaders.

There's also bad blood , unfulfilled promises on the amount of his own money he would sink into his U.S. Senate bid, and a fallout during the campaign where several of his own staffers jumped ship, badmouthing him to the media.

Neither the party leadership nor the base holds him in high regard.

Faced with a Bivens versus Glassman showdown, some Dems considered rolling the dice with Rodney. But Cherny's candidacy seems sure to quash much of that.

One technical issue that Glassman supporters are sure to raise is that Cherny is not an elected precinct committeeman. Some have interpreted this to mean that, according to state statute and party bylaws, he could not be elected to the chairmanship from the party's state committee.

Knowing that this would be a source of contention, the Democratic Party sought and got a legal opinion on the matter. The result? A member of the state committee has to be an elected PC, unless he or she is appointed to the state committee to fill a vacancy by the county chair.

Cherny claims this maneuvering is already in the works.

Could this end in some sort of weird court battle? Anything's possible. But if consensus builds around Cherny, Glassman would be stupid to be the spoiler. Then party stalwarts would have yet another reason to despise him.


State Senate President-elect Russell Pearce likes to lecture us on the "rule of law," especially applied to anyone who's brown. However, his son Joshua Trent Pearce recently was under investigation by the Mesa Police Department for allegations of possible child abuse.

Mesa PD spokesman Sergeant Ed Wessing confirmed that police responded to a call December 10 from Banner Desert Medical Center regarding a 9-day-old baby girl, the daughter of Joshua Pearce and his wife, Samantha.

According to Wessing, hospital staff told police that the child had a skull fracture, and that the parents' explanation of how the fracture may have occurred did not jibe with the severity of the injury.

The Mesa PD opened an inquiry into the matter. The child since has been released from the hospital and her prognosis for a full recovery "is positive," according to Wessing.

Wessing said the child had been in Joshua Pearce's care at the time and that Mesa cops had spoken with both Pearce and his wife about the incident.

As I reported recently in Feathered Bastard ("Russell Pearce's Son Joshua Pearce," December 22), Wessing informed me that no charges would be forthcoming.

"The Mesa Police Department will not be submitting criminal charges in this case," Wessing told me via e-mail. "At this time we do not have sufficient probable cause to charge Mr. Pearce."

Wessing said Child Protective Services had been notified and was involved in the matter. He also said the case will be submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for review.

I called Samantha Pearce, but she declined to comment. I was not able to talk with Joshua Pearce. Phone calls and e-mails to state Senator Russell Pearce on this particular subject have not been returned.

This is not Josh Pearce's first brush with the law. In 2006, he was arrested by the Mesa PD for a DUI while driving on a suspended license. He told police that he was a regular user of marijuana but that he no longer drank alcohol because of a previous DUI.

In the car with him were Samantha and their 5-day-old child Wyatt. Josh Pearce had been driving slow and swerving. During field-sobriety tests, officers noted signs of impairment. Pearce's eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred, according to the report. The odor of marijuana was on his breath.

At first, Pearce told police that he had last smoked pot two days earlier, but under further questioning, he admitted to regular use.

"He then told me that, 'I always wake and bake,'" reads a Mesa PD supplemental report by one of the officers on the scene. "I asked him what that meant, and he told me that when he wakes up in the morning and smokes marijuana. Joshua told me that it helps him relax and loosens up his muscles. He told me that he smoked marijuana at 10 this morning."

Pearce also told officers that he took Xanax for panic attacks. He later tested positive for THC, Oxycodone, and Oxymorphone.

His job was listed as "roofer." Court documents described his last known address as 1247 East Inca Street in Mesa, the same listed on state Senator Russell Pearce's campaign-finance reports with the Arizona Secretary of State.

Wessing said Josh Pearce now has a different Mesa address on file.

In 2007, the County Attorney's Office hit Josh Pearce with two felony counts of aggravated DUI. Pearce pleaded guilty to one count and received five years of probation.

His dad is no stranger to allegations of domestic abuse. In 2008, I revealed the existence of a marriage-dissolution petition filed by Russell Pearce's wife, LuAnne, in 1980, which alleged physical abuse at the hands of her husband ("Did State Representative Russell Pearce Ever Beat His Wife, LuAnne?" July 21).

It reads in part, "Further, the husband, RUSSELL KEITH PEARCE, is possessed of a violent temper, and has from time to time hit and shoved the wife, the last time being on February 3, [1980], when he grabbed the wife by the throat and threw her down."

The Pearces ultimately reconciled and remain married. When I asked her about it in 2008, LuAnne Pearce denied that her husband had ever abused or threatened her, and she said that she had never made the statements that were in the court document.

Also in 2008, I blogged about a 1974 police report that stated Pearce, then a young sheriff's deputy, busted down the door of his first wife's place. Karen and Russell were divorced the same year. No charges were ever filed in that incident ("Anger in Need of Management," August 13).

There's also Pearce's tenure as director of the Motor Vehicles Division, which ended in disgrace.

Though Pearce proudly lists heading the MVD on his Web site, he was fired in 1999 by then-Arizona Department of Transportation director (and fellow Republican) Mary Peters.

His firing came after an investigation revealed that Pearce and two underlings had tampered with a Tucson woman's driving record. Pearce, et al., fudged one of the Tucson woman's two DUI convictions, according to reports at the time.

To the suggestion that Pearce had been cleared, Peters told the Arizona Republic, "There's a big difference between being cleared and choosing not to file criminal charges."

One of Pearce's other sons, Justin Pearce, then 20, held a low-level job at the MVD and ended up getting busted for giving his friends fake licenses so they could buy beer.

Justin Pearce pleaded guilty and received probation for tampering with a public record.

Two of Pearce's sons have careers in law enforcement: Sean Pearce, with the MCSO, and Colten Pearce, with the Gilbert Police Department.

I would not condemn any one member of a family for the others' misdeeds. But that's not Pearce's policy.

He wants to deny American citizen children their 14th Amendment right to birthright citizenship because of the transgressions of their parents, who're in the country illegally.

Ditto his opposition to the DREAM Act, the proposal to allow children brought into this country when they were young to legalize their status if they go to college or serve in the military.

The rule of law, it seems, damns only those Pearce hates. When it comes to him and his own, a different standard applies — in his mind.

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