MESA, Ariz. -- Almost a year to the day after he took power as the self-proclaimed "Tea Party president" and thrust Arizona's hard-line immigration and anti-federal laws into the national arena, state Senate president Russell Pearce watched in bewilderment yesterday as an extraordinary citizens campaign of Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans dethroned him in a historic recall election.
"Today marks the beginning of a new era in Arizona politics," declared Randy Parraz, the co-founder of the Citizens for a Better Arizona, which spearheaded the recall campaign to great derision last January. "The reign of Senate president Russell Pearce has finally come to an end."
As the darling of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council and an influential ideologue in the nativist-tinged anti-immigrant movement, however, Pearce is not the only loser in the election upset. With more than 90 percent of his campaign funds coming from corporate lobbyists and out-of-district contributions, allowing him to vastly outspend his opponent, Pearce lost by a nearly 10 percent margin -- 53.4 percent to 45.3 percent -- to Republican newcomer Jerry Lewis, a moderate Mormon leader who largely ran his grass-roots campaign as a referendum on Pearce's extremist views.