Former state Senate President Russell Pearce wants to be a lawmaker again.
Four months after voters removed Pearce in a historic recall election, the Mesa Republican launched a state Senate campaign Monday evening while flanked by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and cheered on by supporters at a tea party event.
Pearce told a crowd of hundreds he’s running because his work is not done. He said he would fight for greater freedom, more school choice, lower taxes, limited government and states’ rights. He invoked the founding fathers and said a revolution is needed to restore the founding principles of limited government.
“Things are this bad because we’ve allowed them to get this bad,” Pearce said. “Let’s take it back. Let’s not apologize anymore.”
Pearce and about a dozen Republican speakers took the stage at an east Mesa charter school to promote tea party ideas and at times to criticize the media.
Pearce said critics over time have unfairly portrayed him as “a mean nasty old man.”
Arpaio said people commonly credit him for Arizona’s immigration laws; he said Pearce and the legislature are due credit for passing immigration laws like SB 1070.
He said Pearce is more than a one-issue candidate, however.
“One thing we need in this country are fighters. Never surrender,” Arpaio said.
Pearce seeks to represent the Republican-dominated legislative District 25, where incumbent GOP Sen. Rich Crandall lives.
Earlier Monday, Mesa resident and SkyMall founder Bob Worsley announced his candidacy for the district. Like Pearce, Worsley is Republican and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Before Pearce made his announcement Monday, he welcomed Worsley into the race. When the event ended, campaign volunteers had stacks of bumper stickers, campaign petitions, yard signs and literature ready to distribute.
While Crandall has yet to declare his intentions either way, he took to Twitter late Monday night and appeared to imply – albeit without explicitly saying so – that he would not seek reelection.
“Happy to announce throwing my support behind Worsley with my entire campaign (organization),” Crandall said in one Tweet. “LD25 is lucky to have a proven leader step up (and) run!"
The differences in political views between Pearce and Worsley could make the Aug. 28 primary the kind of contentious battle that characterized the Nov. 2011 recall election.
In that race, Republican opponent and charter school executive Jerry Lewis waged a campaign that Pearce had gone too far to the right on immigration and other issues.
While Pearce is recognized for authoring SB 1070 and other immigration bills, Worsley didn’t mention immigration in a statement announcing his campaign. Worsley touts his Mormon and Boy Scout volunteerism, along with his work at Skymall and other businesses he’s founded.
Pearce authored the popular SB 1070, but recall organizers said he focused on immigration at the expense of other issues including education, healthcare and the economy.
Pearce remains committed to his signature issue. He is now the president of the Valley-based Ban Amnesty Now, which promotes tougher policies regarding illegal immigrants.
Pearce would not face Lewis in this election because legislative district boundaries changed through redistricting.
Several lawmakers portrayed last year’s recall as a wide-spread and troubling effort to help liberals across the state.
Arizona Senate majority leader Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said Pearce’s odds in a fall Republican primary are better than in the recall, where non-Republicans could vote.
“It’s going to be a straight up bear fight,” Biggs said. “As long as it’s a fair fight, Russell Pearce is going to win that fight.”
Outside the event, a small group of protestors with a bullhorn called Pearce a “racist.”
Recall organizer Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona has been talking with District 25 voters and said he’ll consider campaigning against Pearce if Mesa residents ask for assistance.
Mesa City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh also joined the conversation on Twitter after Pearce’s announcement, reacting sharply to the news.
“I predict that Russell Pearce will not be endorsed by any member of the Mesa City Council in this new race in District 25,” Kavanaugh said. “When (Pearce) fails to be endorsed by any of the city council I am sure he will accuse us of being under the influence of evil forces.”
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