Recalled Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce's bid for a comeback was rejected by voters in a Mesa-area district Tuesday night.
Businessman Bob Worsley defeated Pearce 56 percent to 44 percent in the GOP primary for the Repubican-leaning seat, the Arizona Republic reported. Pearce, who was recalled by voters last November following his authorship of Arizona's controversial immigration law, was seeking a return to the Senate in the newly drawn district.
Pearce, a former chief deputy sheriff in Maricopa County, rocketed to national attention in 2010 by authoring SB 1070, the immigration law that allows law enforcement agents to seek immigration papers from suspected undocumented immigrants. The law was partially overturned by the Supreme Court in June.
Pearce, who served as Senate president for most of 2011, lost his seat to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis after being recalled. Both Lewis and Worsley are seen as more moderate Republicans than Pearce.
Pearce, who headed the state motor vehicles department in the 1990s, has sought a comeback since leaving the Senate. In January Pearce was elected to the number two post in the state Republican Party, just before he launched his Senate campaign.
Pearce's campaign was mired by a number of setbacks. He had to backtrack from comments he made following the Aurora movie theater shooting and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), an ally during Pearce's Senate tenure, declined to endorse his comeback campaign. Mexican restaurants in the area also declined Pearce's request to host fundraisers for him due to the immigration law.
Two Democrats prevailed in their primaries even after opponents tried to tie them to Pearce. Former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D), who had to explain her decision not to publicly support Pearce's recall as well as her comment that she had a deep affection for Pearce, defeated state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and former state Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny to win the Democratic nomination for a newly created Phoenix-area congressional seat.
Elsewhere in Arizona, Rep. Ron Barber (D), who was elected in June to succeed Gabrielle Giffords, easily defeated his primary challenger, state Rep. Matt Heinz (D), by 65 points to win the Democratic nomination for the Tucson-area seat. Barber, a former Giffords aide who was wounded in the 2011 assassination attempt on her, will face Republican Martha McSally in November. Heinz, a doctor who was the first candidate to enter the race to replace Giffords, said he'd be back to make a 2014 congressional bid in his concession statement.
“Tonight does not mark the end of my lifelong commitment to public service. I will find ways to continue to stay active in Tucson, and we will return for the 2014 congressional race," Heinz said in a statement emailed to reporters late Tuesday night. "We must continue to laying the ground work.”