Why a Russell Pearce Run for Congress Would Be a Good Thing


I'm as giddy as a Justin Bieber fan at the Grammys over state Senate President Russell Pearce's purported ambition to run for U.S. Congress in Arizona's 6th Congressional District.

Pearce long has coveted the seat held by Republican golden boy Congressman Jeff Flake. Pearce even considered running against Flake in the 2008 GOP primary, donning a toupee and raising loot for the effort.

Despite the rug, Pearce's fundraising hit a ceiling, so he opted instead to run for the state Senate, as he was termed out of the state House.

Good move for him, a disastrous one for Sand Land. Now, as Senate president, Pearce rules Arizona with an iron paw.

But U.S. Senator Jon Kyl's announcement that he'll be doing us all a favor in 2012 by not seeking re-election has kicked off the state GOP's Rube Goldberg ambition machine.

Flake recently announced that he wants Kyl's job, which is what everyone expected — Pearce included.

That's why Pearce was making phone calls days before Flake's announcement seeking endorsements, according to the D.C.-based publication Roll Call.

I heartily encourage Pearce's run. Because whether Pearce succeeds or fails in his bid to be one of 435 U.S. House members, it's a win-win scenario for everyone who despises the man's antebellum, states-rights mentality.

If Pearce triumphs, he trots off to Congress, where he'll be an insignificant, 65-year-old backbencher.

Yes, we'll hear from him from time to time, but it'll be along the lines of Republinut Congressman Trent Franks. That is, whenever he does or says something dumb.

An embarrassment to the state? Congressman Pearce would no doubt be that. But he would no longer wield the power he now does as Arizona's de facto Kim Jong-il.

There is also the very good possibility that a Pearce bid in CD6 will be his Vietnam (you know, the war Pearce avoided by signing up for the Arizona National Guard).

Pearce opponents — whether in a primary or the general election — will regale the public with the horrors of Pearce's personal and political life.

Everything from his sending out an anti-Semitic e-mail to supporters to his chumming with neo-Nazi J.T. Ready to long-ago allegations of domestic violence to his obsession with Mexican-bashing legislation.

Plus, when Pearce is goaded with his record, his temper flares, prodding him on to even greater political stupidity.

In the confines of Legislative District 18, he is forgiven his transgressions by a base of supporters who think as he does.

Running for Congress, however, engenders additional scrutiny, both from a wider electorate and from national media already focused on Pearce because of Senate Bill 1070 and his drive to undermine the birthright-citizenship provision of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A savvy foil would exploit this situation, and money will pour into his or her coffers.

If given a solid alternative, CD6 voters may opt for a pol who'll sincerely represent them, not just go to Washington to introduce wingnut legislation, which is all Pearce will be good for.

Currently, there are two recall efforts under way against Pearce. Should either obtain the signatures necessary, it will force Pearce to campaign to keep his LD18 Senate seat.

Having to campaign against a recall opponent will be a major blow to Pearce's congressional ambitions, siphoning away time and cash.

Thus, success for the recall drives is defined as making Pearce scramble to maintain his status quo. This requires only 7,756 signatures, drawn from LD18's 68,409 registered voters. It can be done.

So please run for Congress, Russ. Pretty please! Or as Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan might quip, "Go ahead, Pearce, make our day."


President Bill Clinton had "bimbo" eruptions. State Senate President Pearce has "bigot" eruptions.

The latter happen frequently. Indeed, the great thing about Pearce is that he rarely makes any pretense of hiding his horns (his former toupee notwithstanding).

Recently, Pearce appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to speak on behalf of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1020, which aims to amend the Arizona Constitution so that those engaging in any sort of felony cannot sue their "victims."

This may sound reasonable, though there's already a less-broad statute on the books that reins in abuses of tort claims by real criminals. Pearce believes that statute could be deemed invalid, as the Arizona Constitution states, "The right of action to recover damages for injuries shall never be abrogated."

Yet under questioning by Republican state Senator Adam Driggs, Pearce revealed the real reason he's so keen to put this proposed amendment on the ballot: He wants to protect his racist rancher pals.

The first of these Pearce did not mention by name, only describing him as "a friend of mine" who detained "illegal aliens," was sued, and lost his ranch.

I e-mailed Pearce to ask him if he was referring to Casey Nethercott, a notorious vigilante who lost his Arizona ranch in 2005 after the Southern Poverty Law Center sued him and his accomplices for holding a Salvadoran man and woman at gunpoint on a ranch in Texas. Nethercott's group Ranch Rescue was doing militia-like patrols there with the property owner's consent.

Pearce didn't reply, but the circumstances Pearce described in his testimony parallel those of the Nethercott affair. Pearce stated that the aliens were given "food, water, and clothing," but he failed to mention they were held at gunpoint, and allegedly robbed and assaulted, before getting released.

A nefarious individual who once threatened to close the border with machine guns, Nethercott is a felon, having been convicted in California for aggravated assault. He was later convicted in Texas as a prohibited possessor of a firearm and served five years in the pen.

Nethercott had a neo-Nazi sidekick in his organization who was wounded in a shootout when the FBI tried to arrest Nethercott on an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for threatening U.S. Border Patrol officers. Nethercott, amazingly, beat that rap.

The other redneck yahoo Pearce mentioned as "a friend of mine," this time by name, was Cochise County wild man Roger Barnett, known for hunting Hispanics on his 22,000-acre ranch — much of which is leased federal property.

Legal, illegal — it didn't matter much to Barnett. In 2004, he menaced with his AR-15 a Hispanic-American family who'd supposedly strayed onto his property, threatening to shoot them and calling them "dirty Mexicans." Three children were among his victims.

The district attorney in Cochise refused to bring charges, telling a reporter that no jury in the county would convict Barnett. So the family sued Barnett and won a nearly $100,000 award, one upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Barnett also was sued by several migrants crossing his property in 2004. He allegedly threatened the group at gunpoint, hurled racial slurs at them, and kicked a woman. A federal jury awarded the plaintiffs $77,804.

The jurist in that case was none other than late District Court Judge John Roll, killed by Jared Lee Loughner during his January 8 rampage in Tucson.

Roll received so many death threats from nativist wackos during the trial that he was assigned 24-7 protection.

Barnett appealed the case to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Earlier this month, it ruled against him.

Before the Judiciary Committee, Pearce claimed the "bad guys prevailed" in court against Barnett, "who did what any reasonable man would have done."

He called the lawsuits "frivolous" and said, "I hope we take that case to the [U.S.] Supreme Court."

The fact that Pearce obviously considers a violent racist like Barnett a good guy should tell you all you need to know.

Oh, and Pearce's SCR 1020? The Judiciary Committee gave it a do-pass recommendation, natch.

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