Update November 4th: Jerry Lewis' lead shrinks to three percentage points; updated post HERE
For a brief period of time, a third LDS member, Olivia Cortes, was in the race. However, she was relentlessly accused of being a stalking horse planted by the Pearce campaign to take votes from Jerry Lewis, and tiring of the pressure, withdrew on October 6th. But her name will still be on the November 8th ballot.
Russell Pearce is one of 31 Arizona lawmakers to come under fire for involvement in a Fiesta Bowl scandal. For his part, Pearce stayed at luxury hotels and took family members with him on bowl-sponsored trips from 2002 to 2009. In total, the bowl said it spent more on Pearce than any other individual lawmaker: $39,347. Pearce has since repaid some of the money. But the big Kahuna is Pearce's immigration legislation. Not only was he the primary force behind SB 1070, the toughest immigration law in the nation at the time, but he also unsuccessfully pushed several additional immigration measures this year, including a bill to change how children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants are granted citizenship. This attracted the ire of Hispanic activists and their leftist allies, most notably Phoenix New Times blogger Stephen Lemons, who's been relentlessly stalking him in the journalistic sense.
Then on July 27th, 2011, Jerry Lewis entered the race, and the Hispanic activists and their leftist allies found Their Great Hero. Actually, Lewis is a standup guy who's well-qualified to serve in the state legislature. He is an assistant superintendent for Sequoia Schools, a Mesa-based charter school chain with 13 Arizona locations. He is also a former certified public accountant and has been a vice president with the Grand Canyon Council of the Boy Scouts. Lewis also served as president of the Maricopa Arizona LDS Stake until released on February 27th, 2011. Like Pearce, Lewis believes in closing the border and working with federal officials to improve border security, but he does not support SB 1070. Lewis is supported by SOMOS Republicans, the largest group of Hispanic Republicans in the state. Mesa City Councilman Dave Richins is one of many who have endorsed Lewis, but not over the SB 1070 issue.
Russell Pearce is fighting to win. On August 19th, Pearce said he will campaign actively to promote and defend his long record of promoting economic recovery, job creation, balanced budgets, law enforcement and secure borders. He noted he has never lost an election, and he will fight these outside forces that support lax law enforcement, amnesty and open borders. On October 14th, Pearce got a rousing welcome from 300 people at Hohokam Stadium; also in attendance was former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who told Pearce "I'd come across the gates of hell for you, buddy". In his own speech, Pearce offered no apologies for his conduct in office, saying "I for one am not going to stand by and apologize for demanding that our laws be enforced...I'm not going to apologize for the love of our patriots and our founding principles given to us by our Founding Fathers." Supporting Russell Pearce is the Sonoran Alliance and Patriots for Pearce. Also endorsing Pearce is Mesa City Council candidate Ralph Brandt, a member of the fledgling American Third Position Party (A3P). A3P has been smeared as "white supremacist" by the anti-racist lobby, although membership is open to Americans of all races.
What's most disgusting about this race is that, since both principals are LDS, Pearce's critics are trying to drag the LDS Church into the race and use it as a pawn. Both Stephen Lemons and DeeDee Garcia repeatedly question Pearce's worthiness as a Mormon, claiming his immigration positions are out of step with the official LDS Church position. Garcia even went so far as to write a letter to LDS Church headquarters complaining about Pearce. On October 14th, Lemons claimed that Pearce was "in scalding hot water" with the Church over immigration. But what these critics fail to note is that one of the LDS Church's three basic principles of immigration is to acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders, and that all persons subject to a nation's laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them. "All persons" in this case include illegal aliens, since by breaking into our country, they became subject to our laws. Had the federal government been enforcing our immigration laws consistently, SB 1070 would not have been necessary.
Immigration is not a worthiness issue in the LDS Church. One does not get asked about immigration during a typical worthiness interview. Consequently, it's false to imply that Russell Pearce is less worthy as a Mormon just because he takes a harder line on immigration than the Church. An elected official's responsibility is to his constituency, not his church. Only Pearce's bishop and/or stake president are truly qualified to judge Pearce's worthiness as a Mormon.
While Jerry Lewis would undoubtedly represent LD18 well, voters must decide if they want to trade in an incumbent who not only stands firm on patriotic principle, but who also wields the bigger stick of being President of the Senate. Being represented by the Senate President gives a district bigger clout. I'd be sticking with Russell Pearce myself if I lived there.