State Senate President Russell Pearce and challenger Jerry Lewis will debate for the first — and possibly only — time Oct. 6 at a public forum presented by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
The two Republican candidates are squaring off in the Nov. 8 special recall election in Legislative District 18.
The third candidate, Olivia Cortes, has not responded to several chamber requests. Invitations were sent to Cortes via Fed-Ex mail (which the chamber said was signed for), email and phone messages. Cortes has not made herself available to the media or the public and has been accused of being a “sham” candidate aiming to siphon votes away from Lewis. UPDATE - CLICK HERE
“We organized this forum to provide chamber members an opportunity to listen to the candidates’ views (on issues) important to businesses in Mesa,” said Otto Shill III, chairman of the chamber’s Public Policy Council. “This is a critical time for economic development in Mesa and the state of Arizona generally, and we want to understand the candidates’ vision for improving our economy.”
The forum will begin at 5 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Jack E. Shell Auditorium of the East Valley Institute of Technology, 1601 W. Main St. Tickets, which are free, will be required for admission to the forum. Approximately 500 tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis with emphasis given to LD 18 voters. Ticket requests can be made via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (480) 969-1307, Ext. 16.
Arrangements are also being made for public broadcast and webcast of the forum. The Tribune will have video available at EastValleyTribune.com
Pearce is facing a recall organized by voters who say he no longer represents their interests. Pearce has become known nationally for his tough stance on immigration and as the sponsor of SB 1070. He introduced several more immigration bills during the last legislative session that were turned down by the Republican-controlled Legislature, in part due to fears among Arizona businesses that they would further hurt the economy.
Pearce also is known as a staunch advocate of gun rights, believes in a balanced budget, takes a hard line against raising taxes and has supported measures that pit Arizona against the federal government.
Shill will serve as moderator of the forum. Questions will be asked by a four-person panel consisting of East Valley Tribune Managing Editor Bob Romantic, Melissa Blasius of KPNX, Joanna Allhands of the Arizona Republic and Jeff Mirasola of the Mesa Chamber’s Public Policy Council. Question topics will include economic development, job creation, business regulation and taxation, immigration and education.
“We thought this public forum was the best way to communicate a lot of the other issues besides the one everybody talks about, which is immigration,” said Peter Sterling, president and CEO of the Mesa chamber. “And there a lot of important issues.
“Mesa is generating economic momentum. We need to know how our elected leaders will build on this momentum.”