One group behind the recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce says the victory has emboldened it to begin a campaign against Sheriff Joe Arpaio because of his strong support for Pearce.
And another group says the recall’s outcome has created a new generation of Hispanic activists that will target other lawmakers it deems out of touch with mainstream Arizona voters.
Randy Parraz, a Democrat and key figure in the recall, said the election shows that it’s possible to oust politicians who’ve handily won past elections. When the politics get too extreme, he said, it can fire up people who run the kind of energetic campaign that ousted Pearce.
The Republican Arpaio is up for re-election in November 2012, so Parraz said his Citizens for a Better Arizona would criticize Arpaio in a general election rather than opt for a recall.
“A lot of folks are tired of some of the extremism out of Arpaio,” Parraz said. “We’re definitely looking to hold him more accountable.”
Parraz said his organization’s members will meet in December and January to draft more specific efforts that could involve other groups that worked to recall Pearce.
Arpaio said he’s not worried after surviving nearly two decades of criticism.
“They will not intimidate me. They will not threaten me because I’m still going to do my job,” Arpaio said Thursday. “Nothing has changed one bit with Pearce leaving.”
Arpaio said if critics don’t like the immigration laws like SB 1070 that Pearce introduced, they should try to change the laws. He said he only enforces what’s law, and that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will operate the same way unless state or federal immigration policies change.
Arpaio noted he’s amassed a campaign war chest of $6 million. He said Parraz should meet with him if he has concerns instead of launch a campaign. Apraio said he’s met with critics who are local and national figures.
“The Reverend (Al) Sharpton, when he led 10,000 people against me, I talked to him,” Arpaio said. “I talk to everybody.”
Parraz said the Pearce recall unearthed a groundswell of support for Citizens for a Better Arizona and other organizations that will fight what they describe as too conservative.
The campaign finance reform organization Public Campaign will work to defeat some Republican lawmakers in 2012, said John Loredo, a Democrat and former state House minority leader. Public Campaign believes several lawmakers are vulnerable next year based on polling information about what motivated voters to defeat Pearce, Loredo said.
“The issue that polled the highest for Republicans was money in politics and corruption,” Loredo said. “And there are a whole lot of Republican legislators who are in the same boat.”
Lawmakers who oppose Arizona’s Clean Elections system, who take substantial donations from lobbyists or who alienate Hispanics are vulnerable, he said.
New legislative districts will be in place in 2012, which will weaken the power of incumbency because so many voters will find themselves in new districts, he said.
“There are going to be people who are sitting ducks and we are intending to take full advantage of that,” Loredo said.
He said the Pearce recall has spawned a big group of Hispanics who will remain politically active through their lives. They’re energized by their success and have learned how to cobble together various groups into a larger cause, he said.
“It is a model that we intend to duplicate in 2012 at every level,” he said. “We are intending to take full advantage of that.”
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Photo: Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, left, prepares to address the media late Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 in Mesa, Ariz. as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpiao, right, stands by his side. Voters in a Phoenix-area legislative district went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to oust state Sen. Russell Pearce, the sponsor of Arizona's groundbreaking immigration enforcement law, in an unprecedented recall election. The recall election, forced by a petition drive, is the first for an Arizona legislator. Jerry Lewis is challenging Pearce in the recall. (AP Photo/Matt York)