Author of immigration law fights to hold seat in Arizona

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce is known for his tough stance against illegal immigration and a state law to prevent it.

Story highlights

  • A petition drive forced the recall election for Russell Pearce
  • He is challenged by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis
  • Pearce wrote Arizona's controversial immigration law
The state senator who wrote Arizona's controversial immigration law faced off against a charter school superintendent on Tuesday in a recall election widely seen as a referendum on tough measures against illegal immigrants.
Russell Pearce, a fifth-generation Arizonan representing a suburban Phoenix district, is challenged by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis in the election forced by recall petitions seeking Pearce's ouster.
The heated campaign has included accusations of dirty tricks, with Lewis supporters saying a third candidate who later dropped out but remains on the ballot -- Olivia Cortes -- was intended to siphon votes from Lewis.
Pearce, a former Phoenix-area sheriff's deputy known for his tough stance against illegal immigration, sponsored the state immigration law that became the focus of national media and legal attention.
Passed in 2010, the Arizona law aimed to "discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States."
Among other provisions, it would require that local police, during the enforcement of other laws, check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being undocumented.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the measure overstepped Arizona's authority, and the state is seeking a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to settle the issue.
Pearce contends dozens of other states are trying to pass similar legislation, showing the popular support and need for such measures.
Lewis, who says the controversial law has made Arizona a national pariah, said he is running out of dissatisfaction with how Pearce has represented the 18th District.
Lewis has called for what he characterizes as a more cooperative stance against illegal immigration, one that seeks solutions in concert with the federal government and other players.
The recall petition drive against Pearce collected more than 10,000 signatures.