Beyond the bread and butter issues of jobs, education, health care and immigration reform, when voters go to the polls next Tuesday in the historic recall election of extremist Arizona state Senate President Russell Pearce, they will also be taking part in a national showdown between corporate lobby influence and local grassroots campaigners in what many consider to be the opening salvo in the 2012 elections.
With nearly 90 percent of his campaign funds coming from outside his Mesa district, the self-proclaimed "Tea Party President" Pearce has ridden the corporate lobby gravy train of donations in his desperate bid to save his ultra-right-wing career. Pearce has out-raised his moderate Republican opponent Jerry Lewis by a 3-1 margin, pulling in donations from representatives in the prison, gun and other corporate lobby fronts.
Despite the challenging spending margin, Lewis, a former accountant and charter school administrator, has gained the support of an unprecedented and enthusiastic bipartisan campaign on the ground level. In a counter to a barrage of outside-funded Pearce TV ads, Lewis and his supporters will launch a massive get-out-the-vote effort over the next five days.
Architect of his state's notorious SB 1070 "papers please" immigration law, which Pearce wrote with the help of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council lobby front and other corporate lobbyists, Pearce's ranks also include right-wing billionaire Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children front, which has pummeled the Mesa district with outside mailings touting Pearce's bogus education record.
Nearly a century ago, Arizona's first state governor, George W. Hunt, warned his fellow Arizonans that a national showdown was taking place in their state. "The working class, plus the professional class, represent 99 percent," Hunt said, in a copper town in 1916. "The remaining 1 percent is represented by those who make a business of employing capital." Hunt declared: "It will be a happy day for the nation when the corporations shall be excluded from political activity...and vast accumulations of capital cannot be employed in an attempt to control government."
Long before Hunt and his labor shock troops ushered in one of the nation's most progressive state constitutions in 1912, the clash over Arizona's vast natural resources, its native and immigrant labor ranks, and its rooted inhabitants and carpet-bagging business interests had not only placed the state on the frontlines of American politics but also helped force our nation to come to grips with America's fundamental commitment to civil rights and democracy.
As part of their own nation battle over their state constitution, Hunt and the original Arizonan constitutional convention participants demanded one main concession: The right to recall elected officials who no longer represent the people. Once their constitution was approved by President Taft, the Arizona legislature overwhelming voted to make that plank an enduring part of Arizona's legacy.
As the nation watches, Arizona voters in Mesa's LD18 district will decide on November 8th if that historic legacy will be upheld.