What goes around has come around in Arizona.
So anti-immigration hard-liners, beware. Harsh and divisive immigration scapegoating will not be tolerated by voters. The immigrant punching bag will hit back. Russell Pearce is out. Reason and civility are in. Bien hecho (well done), Mesa, Arizona.
In a special election reluctantly scheduled by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Pearce, 64, the powerful president of the State Senate, was recalled Tuesday by the voters of his suburban Phoenix district. The governor, Pearce’s friend and political ally, was forced to schedule the unprecedented special election after she was confronted by the avalanche of petitions bearing citizen signatures demanding a recall.
“We showed that civility is a sign of strength not weakness,” the winner, fellow Republican Jerry Lewis, told a cheering crowd of 300 supporters gathered around his backyard when the vote results became clear. “We now have an opportunity to heal the divide in Mesa.”
Lewis, 55, also spoke of how Arizona needed a state senator who could tackle the divisive issue of illegal immigration in an atmosphere free of “fear-mongering and political rhetoric.”
His message clearly resonated. The 70,000 voters in Mesa’s 18th legislative district went decisively for Lewis, a charter school administrator and political novice 52.4 percent to 45.4 percent, despite a three-to-one fund-raising advantage for Pearce and his lengthy list of high-profile supporters. Those supporters included noisy Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County’s hyper-aggressive, anti-immigrant sheriff.
As it became clear his own constituents were rejecting his divisive approach, Pearce tried every dirty trick in the book in an increasingly desperate attempt to defeat Lewis. These included the shameless recruitment of a naturalized Mexican immigrant, Olivia Cortes, to run against both Pearce and Lewis on a pro-immigration platform.
The motive from the get-go was to dilute the anti-Pearce vote by running the Latina. But the ham-handed fraud was exposed when candidate Lewis went to court.
Superior Court Judge Edward O. Burke wrote, “The court finds that Pearce supporters recruited Cortes, a political neophyte, to run in the special election to siphon Hispanic votes from Lewis to advance Pearce’s recall election bid.”
It was even worse than that. Further investigation by the New York Times and other news organizations revealed that Cortes had been recruited by Pearce ally Greg Western, the chairman of the East Valley Tea Party.
The crew reportedly raised money for Cortes, creating and deploying hundreds of lawn signs, and issuing news releases touting her candidacy. And the sleaze did not stop there. The Tea Party’s Mr. Western went so far as to become Cortes' campaign adviser.
Did he tell her that his intent was to sabotage her sham candidacy? Did she know that she was a sucker working for a tea party?
Aside from Pearce’s pathetic electoral dishonesty, his anti-immigrant extremism has been a disaster for Arizona’s economy. The man who suggested recently that undocumented immigrants be rounded up and held in “desert tent cities” pending deportation became a national figure when he wrote the state’s “papers please” anti-immigrant law SB1070, which is currently enjoined by a federal judge pending review.
Since passage of Pearce’s SB1070, Arizona has been devastated by a spreading boycott that has resulted in the cancellation of numerous conventions that, according to the pro-immigration Center for American Progress (CAP), “has produced or will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in lost direct spending in the state and diminished economic output.”
The CAP report notes that the losses would be far greater, if “leisure travel cancellations, municipal business boycotts, entertainment boycotts such as concert cancellations,” were figured in.
There are two bottom line lessons to draw from the CAP report:
1- “…other states considering immigration legislation should pause before rushing to adopt measures like SB 1070 and understand the potentially disastrous economic and fiscal consequences of such a decision.”
2- Among the record 12.2 million Latinos expected to vote for president in 2012, Barack Obama leads Herman Cain by a 65 percent to 22 percent margin, Mitt Romney by 67 percent to 24 percent, and Rick Perry 68 percent to 21 percent.
Like I said, what goes around comes around.
Geraldo Rivera is Senior Columnist for Fox News Latino.