Latinos react to Russell Pearce recall

Latinos react to Russell Pearce recall
Russell Pearce lost recall election

Politicians who think that railing against immigrants will get them elected or keep them in office should remember this name: Russell Pearce.

Pearce, was the Arizona state senator behind that state's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, that generated worldwide attention. He was voted out of office Tuesday night.

Pearce lost to another Republican, Jerry Lewis. Lewis had 53.4 percent of the vote with all the precincts reporting, according to CNN.

Latino activists in the state said this shows that Arizonans don't tolerate extremism.

"This sends a message to the entire nation that Arizonans wants solutions. SB 1070 didn't bring solutions," Dulce Matuz, chair of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, told me in a phone interview.

It was a rare bipartisan and diverse effort that helped Republican Lewis win election. A coalition of groups Republican and Democrat, immigrant, Latino, white, young and old joined together to defeat Pearce, said Carmen Cornejo, a community activist from Chandler, Ariz.

"We want to serve as a model to turn things around for the better of the country," Cornejo told me in a phone interview.

Pearce is the first sitting state Senate president and the first Arizona legislator, to ever lose in a recall election. Once early and provisional votes are counted and the vote becomes official, Pearce will have to step down immediately. But he has already conceded defeat.

SB 1070, signed by Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer in April 2010, sparked a national outcry from Latinos and supporters of immigrant and civil rights. Some business groups and musicians boycotted Arizona. The law has been largely tied up in the courts.

More than 10,000 Arizona residents signed recall petitions and the effort was seen as a referendum on Pearce's anti-immigration stance.

"For a long time people thought Russell Pearce was untouchable," Matuz said.

It's remarkable that Lewis won considering that he was outspent three to one by Pearce. Also, supporters of the Pearce campaign helped put a Mexican immigrant woman on the ballot in a possible attempt to steal votes from Lewis, according to the Arizona Republic.

This backfired and the woman, Olivia Cortes, dropped out of the race. Her name remained on the ballot but she got a mere 250 votes - not enough to impact the results.

Lewis, also a Republican, differed from Pearce on his views on immigration. While he supports securing the border, his views are more moderate.

"He is a person we can work with. He is a person we can sit down with," Cornejo said. "He's not an extremist."

Many politicians think that waving the anti-immigrant banner will get them elected. In the end, it made Pearce a loser.

The Republican presidential candidates for president should take note. Attacking immigrants isn't a winning strategy.


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