Russell Pearce Recall: President Officially Removed From Arizona Senate
With the signatures of three officials sitting around a Phoenix conference room Monday morning, Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) was officially removed from office.
Pearce, the state's former Senate president, was voted out in a Nov. 8 recall election, but he remained in office pending certification of the election. Gov. Jan Brewer (R), Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) and Attorney General Tom Horne (R) officially certified the election Monday.
"We have notified the Senate of these results," said Matthew Roberts, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office.
Roberts said today's actions were primarily ceremonial in nature, but did serve a key legal function. Until the results were certified, Pearce retained all the powers of a state senator and control of the Senate gavel. The Senate has not met since the recall election.
The last Senate session occurred on Nov. 2 when senators voted to uphold Brewer's removal of Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis, a move that was overturned by the state Supreme Court last week. Pearce played a role in the lawsuit and was officially named as a defendant by Mathis for his role in leading the Senate response to the suit as the body's president.
The Senate is not scheduled to meet again until January.
Monday's certification ceremony marks what might be the end of Pearce's political career in Arizona. Pearce was a state representative from 2001 to 2009, while serving as a deputy sheriff in Maricopa County, and heading the state's motor vehicle agency under former Govs. Fife Symington (R) and Jane Dee Hull (R). While serving as chief deputy sheriff in Maricopa County, he helped create the county's tent city jail.
Pearce was recalled from the Senate primarily due to his sponsorship of the state's controversial immigration law, which Brewer signed in 2010.
Pearce has not indicated if he will seek reimbursement for his recall campaign from the state. State Rep. John Harper (R-Paradise) has suggested that Pearce could be owed money for recall election expenses under an obscure clause in the state constitution. Democrats have indicated they would block such a move, which would likely require legislative approval.
While Pearce was not officially out of office until today, the Senate had already started to move past his era of leadership. Within days of the recall Sen. Steve Pierce (R-Prescott) was elected to the Senate presidency. Pierce, the former majority whip, defeated Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) by one vote to capture the president's chair. Pierce, a rancher, has served in the Senate since 2009.
Pearce is being replaced in the Senate by Republican Jerry Lewis, who defeated him in the recall. Lewis is slated to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday morning in Phoenix.
Pearce's election was the only race that Brewer, Bennett and Horne tackled during the meeting.
"It was just the recall," Roberts told HuffPost. "That was the only election that we dealt with."