Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Recall: Yellow Sheet Admits Senate President Is On the Ropes

The Arizona Capitol TimesYellow Sheet costs $250 per month? Crikey, that equals my liquor store tab for September. Well, almost.

Which is why I won't be subscribing anytime soon to YS, the daily report lobbyists and lawyers pony up a quarter of a grand 12 times a year (or $500 bi-monthly, or a whopping $3,000 per year) to receive in their e-mail in-boxes. 

Thankfully, I know a few lawyers willing to share when the YS opines on something that strikes my fancy.

YS did this recently, with an item declaring that, "There is a growing sentiment among Capitol observers that [state Senate President Russell] Pearce is in serious trouble in the recall election..."

The item's illustration was a skull and crossbones. It quoted unnamed lobbyists and "railbirds" labeling the Pearce camp's tactics as "desperate," particularly "recent attacks leveled against [Pearce-foe Jerry] Lewis, including that he misappropriated state funds and stole from homeless school children."

Though it would have been good for YS to note that those allegations are bogus, as I've pointed out in more than one blog item, the fact that the CapTimes is singing a different tune these days is in itself a sign that the HMS Pearce is taking on water.

As recently as July 29, YS associate editor Christian Palmer -- like most Arizona pundits save this one -- wasn't allowing Republican contender Lewis much of a shot against Pearce in the upcoming Legislative District 18 recall election.

"So far," Palmer wrote at the time, "all the signs are pointing to a disappointing blowout, with Pearce clobbering political newbie Jerry Lewis."

While praising Lewis "guts," Palmer said Lewis faced "insurmountable odds" against "the most powerful official in the state."  

Palmer hasn't been solo on this opinion. Until recently, my colleagues in the local press corps have been reluctant to grant the recall effort, much less Lewis, a marshmallow's chance of surviving Arizona in August.


Not to toot my own tuba, but when Citizens for a Better Arizona filed recall paperwork in late January, I stated that not only could the group be successful in forcing a recall, but that Pearce was vulnerable in LD18.

"It's conceivable that Pearce could lose," I wrote in a February 3 column. "In 2008, Pearce bested his Democratic rival for the state Senate by 5,343 votes. In 2010, Pearce exceeded the combined vote totals for both the Libertarian and Democratic candidates by just 4,081."

I added, "Even if Pearce ultimately prevails, a recall would damage him politically."

It's not that I'm some political Nostradamus. But I knew that Pearce took his district for granted, that the economy had soured enthusiasm for him, and that his taste for political vendettas and strong-arming fellow GOPers had turned many conservative Republicans against him.

Plus, I hated Pearce before hating Pearce was cool. And I saw the advantage in hurting him politically via the recall effort.

Finally, I've always been impressed with Randy Parraz's organizational skills from his days organizing the anti-Sheriff Joe Arpaio organization Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability. 

Arpaio's goons in brown targeted him for retaliation, and in 2008 he was falsely arrested by sheriff's deputies outside a meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Parraz never backs down, you see, even when being handcuffed. So I was not surprised when his Citizens for a Better Arizona, jump-started with some of his own cash, quickly eclipsed a rival Pearce recall drive and began to set LD18 on fire like Dresden circa 1945.

I later pointed out that Pearce has been his own worst enemy in the recall donnybrook, and that local journos were dismissing the effort out-of-hand and would end by choking on barbecued crow.

That said, I'm not counting Pearce out at this stage of the game. The latest internal poll I have knowledge of showed Lewis besting Pearce by one percent, with sham recall candidate Olivia Cortes pulling five percent, her official withdrawal notwithstanding.

Even should Pearce squeak out a win, not all is lost. Attorney Tom Ryan, who forced Cortes' withdrawal and exposed a plot by the East Valley Tea Party to run her as a diversionary candidate, may have grounds to take the matter back into court, particularly if Cortes' name on the ballot ends up being the deciding factor.

Interestingly, the very same YS report scored a quote from EVTP member and Pearce loyalist Dan Grimm, admitting to a CapTimes reporter that, "Just as the main objective of the recall movement is to knock out Russell Pearce, the main objective of mine was to knock out Jerry Lewis using Olivia Cortes."

This directly contradicts statements Grimm made under oath in superior court to the effect that he circulated Cortes petitions so as to have an option other than Lewis on the ballot, should Pearce lose.

Did Grimm commit perjury? That's for the county attorney to look into. And if he doesn't and should Pearce cheat fate, I suspect Ryan will be back in court, placing Grimm, Pearce and all the rest of the gang-that-couldn't-shoot-straight under oath. 

In that case, for his sake, Pearce would be better off losing, though I doubt he and powerful backers such as Chuck Coughlin and Chad Willems realize it at this point in time.

I, of course, want Pearce defeated. If he goes down November 8, his political career is over. Forget those who say he will rise again, like Jason in the Friday the 13th flicks. 

First, his district will soon change due to redistricting, eliminating his free ride forever. And second, Pearce cannot win an election outside of his own ultra-conservative postage stamp. Even that's not a sure thing anymore.

If Pearce survives November 8, he will be hobbled, and will have only gotten over the hump by scamming the electorate. Ryan will be on his tail, and the senator's brother Judge Lester Pearce will likely face an ethics complaint.

More importantly, Republicans, in LD 18 and elsewhere, are no longer afraid to speak out against Pearce. That genie won't go back into the bottle, and Pearce's days of power will remain in decline.