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Arizonans try to recall anti-immigration state leader

By Traci Tamura, CNN
  • Group submits recall petition to secretary of state
  • Arizona Senate president is subject of campaign
  • Politician was main sponsor behind anti-immigration law

(CNN) -- An effort is underway in Arizona to recall state Senate President Russell Pearce, the primary sponsor behind a controversial anti-illegal immigration law that a federal court struck down in April.

On Tuesday, the group Citizens for a Better Arizona submitted petitions with 18,315 signatures to Arizona's secretary of state.

"Today, citizens from Arizona have come together to make a bold statement that the divisive and extreme politics of Russell Pearce must end," said one of the recall campaign's organizers, Randy Parraz.

The group describes itself as a mix of Democrats and Republicans, young and old, and mostly Latino and white voters.

Pearce did not respond to requests to directly comment on the recall campaign, but said of his supporters: "I am so grateful that some of my friends have stepped forward to oppose this recall and defend the truth. The personal, hurtful attacks by people who don't even live in Arizona must stop. Working together, we can bring Arizonans together and move our state forward."

His supporters have formed their own group, The Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall, and on Tuesday launched a website to solicit donations to fight the recall effort.

"We will not sit back and let out-of-state and out-of-district special interests attempt to use a recall to harass and intimidate Arizona's constitutionally elected officials," said Matt Tolman, chairman of the group. "We will oppose this recall so that President Pearce and other officials can do the job for which they were elected."

Pearce, a Republican, sponsored Arizona Senate Bill 1070. The measure would have required local police, while enforcing other laws, to question 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.

Before becoming a state senator in 2001, Pearce spent 23 years as a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy.

He is known for his tough stance against illegal immigration and continues to introduce such legislation.