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November 1, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

State Senate Recall Election: The Candidates, Jerry Lewis

  |   Video
  • Arizona’s first-ever recall election for a state legislator takes place Tuesday, November 8th. Senate President Russell Pearce talks about why he should keep his office, and challenger Jerry Lewis explains why he thinks the voters of Mesa’s Legislative District 18 should select him as their new state senator.
  • Jerry Lewis - State Senate Recall Candidate
Category: Elections   |   Keywords: recall, pearce, lewis, election,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Arizona's historic first-ever recall election for a state legislator is one week away. On November 8th voters of Mesa's legislative district 18 will decide if they want to keep Senate President Russell Pearce in office or if they want to replace him with challenger Jerry Lewis. I spoke with both candidates last week. Tonight we bring you those interviews, starting with Jerry Lewis. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Jerry Lewis: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Why are you running? Why are you doing this?

Jerry Lewis: I’m doing this because some great people who I have known for 30 years asked me to enter this race, a race that I had thought about for about five years as I’ve watched what's happened to the image of Mesa, the image of Arizona, and I felt something needed to be done to change the tone in the political scene and bring back a fresh voice to Mesa. I thought about it for five years, but never seriously, I didn't want to be a politician. But we felt that we needed to do so.

Ted Simons: Was there one incident that pushed you to run?

Jerry Lewis: I think no incidents in general, but it's just like I say, three or four years of just seeing the same thing, and seeing our economy continuing to tumble, seeing the lack of representation that the voters wanted. Sitting on the sidelines saying, “Someone's got to do something, someone’s got to stand up and run” And when my schedule freed up a little bit that became me.

Ted Simons: Talk about the lack of representation that the voters wanted. Give us an example of something Senator Pearce has done that the voters you think didn't necessarily want being done.

Jerry Lewis: I think the ignoring of the other key issues, education and the economy, while focusing on other immigration issues, and other things totally outside the realm of Arizona and the city of Mesa. People saw that and said, “Hey, we're still here, we're the ones who put you in office. So we’d like you to pay attention to what our concerns and our needs are.”

Ted Simons: And you thought that reached a level that deserved basically a do-over on the Russell Pearce election?

Jerry Lewis: In terms of the recall or the election itself?

Ted Simons: Well, basically it's a do-over as far as Russell Pearce is concerned. He was voted in and you're saying this has reached a point to where we need to vote on this again?

Jerry Lewis: Yes, I believe, along with many other citizens of Mesa that we need to have better representation, a more civil tone brought back in the state and in our city.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about a variety of issues. Let’s start with SB 1070 that’s a major issue as far as your opponent is concerned and something major as far as the race is concerned. You initially said you thought SB 1070 was a good start in terms of immigration and enforcement. Do you still feel that way?

Jerry Lewis: I meant by that comment, it is a piece of the overall picture that has to be addressed. We can solve the issue in a way where we can all be happy with and proud of. There's a lot more than just the rule of law, which is vitally important to this discussion. We have to consider national security, and what our current existing immigration laws do to splitting up families. We have to look at the economic impact, schools, and our welfare systems. Most of all, we have to look at the federal government's role in there, and we can't let the federal government be advocated from their responsibility. I believe we have an issue of securing the border we have to address. We have 12.5 million people in this country that are undocumented. We have to find a way to do so. I believe there are great solutions out there. We just need to create an environment where those solutions can be debated in a civil tone and implemented.

Ted Simons: Would you have voted for SB 1070?

Jerry Lewis: That’s a hypothetical question. I wasn't there, so it would be hard foe me to answer that. If I were a part of that, I would have been looking for a complete solution rather than just one aspect of it. And I would have spent a lot more time, I think, trying to figure out ways to get the federal government to perform their duties.

Ted Simons: Your opponent has pushed for proof of citizenship in order to be able to vote. Pushing for identification for public benefits. A variety of immigration orientated goals and plans and laws, and he's pushed many of these through the legislature. Again, is that something that is wrong? Is that malfeasance? Why should he be voted on again after doing these particular things?

Jerry Lewis: It's not malfeasance, however, I think it's focusing on those issues while other issues that are very important to Mesa voters are left to dwindle. I think people were tired of it. People want a change. I've not met anybody that doesn't want to secure the border or doesn't want to have a real reform package in immigration that will work. The problem is that the environment that exists today, if you come up with any sense I believe or reasonable solution, you're called a traitor or an open-border radical. That's not the case. People want reform but they want reform that will work, that will not be debated in the courts for the next five or 10 years.

Ted Simons: You said in the debate Arizona was akin to 1964 Alabama. What do you mean by that?

Jerry Lewis: Okay, what I said was people outside of Arizona look at us if we are akin to 1964 Alabama. I did not say that myself.

Ted Simons: Sure, but what did you mean by that?

Jerry Lewis: What I meant, from the people I've spoken to in and out of state, in and out of the country, they are looking at us and saying, “Wow, you guys are really mean people you're really tough on those people from the outside, you look kind of like Alabama did in the 1960s.” Thankfully Alabama has changed a great deal. No disparagement on Alabama or my city or my state. I love Mesa, I love Arizona. I'm just saying people outside don't see us as we see ourselves or as we truly are. I'm very proud to be a Mesa resident and a resident of this great state.

Ted Simons: Your opponent says he promised and delivered a truly balanced budget. He led the way on this and he says it is truly balanced. Some disagree on the truly part. He says he did it. Do you agree with him?

Jerry Lewis: Actually okay. Did the debits equal the credits? I suppose they do. With my accounting background, I can say he has. The idea of no gimmicks, when you have to sell your capitol and lease it back, is that a gimmick? Maybe it is. If you have to push all of those unfunded mandates onto the cities and counties, is that a gimmick? Okay. I think we have to look at the whole state. Is the whole state in a balanced budget? We need to look at the whole state and make sure that we're all understanding what the balanced budget really means.

Ted Simons: So again, I'll ask you again in a different form. Would you have voted for those budget first you were in the legislature?

Jerry Lewis: I would like to think we could have gone to the educational institutions, who we had to cut. Everybody understands, no one's wanting a free lunch here. I would like to have thought we would have consulted with the larger school districts and other charter organizations to say, “Hey, we've got to cut you, where would be the least painful for you?” Rather than saying we're going cut you here, cut you there. I've talked with school officials and city officials. That's all they want, they want to be listened to and understood. Business people the same. They want to know their voice counts and that when they tell you something, they are not just saying it for some kind of a political favor over whatever. They really mean what they say and they want a voice in the political process.

Ted Simons: As far as cuts to the medical program, again, pushed to the legislature, signed by the governor. Your opponent a major factor in these laws and in this legislation. How do you feel bit?

Jerry Lewis: We have to look at all revenue and expenses and determine what extent do we want to be involved in, as a government, what role should government play in any aspect that we're currently funding? We have to then prioritize those particular items that we deem appropriate for government to be involved with. And if education and Medicare are those items we feel are the most important, and that's what the voters agree with, okay, we need to figure out ways to implement that which is affordable. We can't continue to go into debt to fund programs that we can't afford.

Ted Simons: The mayor of Mesa is very outspoken on the legislature meddling in Municipal affairs. Again, your opponent has helped push through legislation that does just that, according to a lot of municipal leaders. How do you feel about the state telling cities, like on impact fees, for example, and other aspects of municipal life and governance. What do you feel about the state pushing its will in that direction?

Jerry Lewis: I just had a meeting with one of the city councilmen this morning. You know and it’s interesting. He said, “You're the first person from the state to come and ask me what can we do as a state to help you as a city.” He says, “What a novel idea.” I've done that with several other businesses leaders and council leaders and education leaders, as well. All they are asking is, I think, is, “Can we have a voice? Would you please listen to us and discuss with us first.” With my experience and leadership in accounting, education, business background, you have got to listen to people and take what they say to heart and act thereon.

Ted Simons: Your opponent has passed jobs bills, he's passed pro-life bills, gun laws, parental choice in education. On any of those issues do you differ from him significantly?

Jerry Lewis: No, no.

Ted Simons: If you don't, are you different from Russell Pearce simply because you're not Russell Pearce?

Jerry Lewis: No. That would be an easy assumption to make and that's certainly not the case. I believe with my experience in the real world, business, education, accounting, and leadership experience, I bring a tone of leadership that really wants to solve problems. I don't care who gets the credit for it. I really believe that we need to focus on what the voters want. Okay, and listen to what they have to say. They are the ones that put us in office. They expect us to legislate in their behalf and their best interests in this great republic that we have. What I bring is someone that will listen and has listened to employees, to people on various sides of issues, to solve problems, tough problems that you just can't sound bite away. You have to dig into the details to fully understand it and make sure approximate people are represented by that discussion.

Ted Simons: People in Mesa want to know whoever is representing them has enough where with all, power, whatever you want to talk about, he is the president of the senate, he has a lot of power at the legislature. Some call him the de facto governor, if you will. Why should Mesa voters decide you would be better in that position, at least representing them, than him?

Jerry Lewis: Several reasons. There's a lot more support at the capitol than I think people are aware of. A lot of people are silently supporting in very, very many ways through emails through talking with friends. I've spoken with a lot of legislators who are definitely supporting me. They say, “Don't worry you hear that from some of the people, that's not the case. You will fit in here and you’re not going to be a pariah” as I’ve been called in the Republican Party.”You will fit in here, and we will be able to work together to move forward on those issues which are important to Mesa and Arizona at this time.”

Ted Simons: Last question: Your critics say you're being used by the open border and amnesty crowds, by Democrats, by union proponents, all sorts of folks that are not necessarily from Mesa, not necessarily from your district. You're being used to get at Russell Pearce. How do you respond?

Jerry Lewis: Absolutely not true. It's interesting. Look at my support in this election, 68% of it has come right from Mesa. We already filed our support, we filed our candidate's report the day after it was due. People that support me are from Mesa. I've never met Randy Perez, I don’t plan on that. I’ve never met Chaz, no I don’t plan on it. I'm nobody's puppet. I've been accused of a lot of these things. I ran because it is something that I felt deeply for some time. Good people asked me to run. I considered it, prayed a lot about it and made a decision and here I am.

Ted Simons: All right. Good to have you on the show. Thank you for joining us we appreciate it.

Jerry Lewis: Thank you very much.

State Senate Recall Election: The Candidates, Russell Pearce

  |   Video
  • Arizona’s first-ever recall election for a state legislator takes place Tuesday, November 8th. Senate President Russell Pearce talks about why he should keep his office, and challenger Jerry Lewis explains why he thinks the voters of Mesa’s Legislative District 18 should select him as their new state senator.
  • Sen. Russell Pearce - State Senator
Category: Elections   |   Keywords: recall, pearce, lewis, election,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Now we hear from Senate President Russell Pearce. Thanks you for joining us tonight on "Horizon." Good to have you here.

Russell Pearce: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Let's start with, why do you think you are facing a recall? Why do you think this has happened?

Russell Pearce: Well, you know, it is pretty clear, I think. It started the year before I was elected to this term. It's about SB 1070 more than anything else. The guys that started this is a Berkeley trained community organizer, not in my district, who started to protest a year before I was elected for this term. He's the same guy that brought groups down to the capitol, threw the American flag on the ground, and trampled it. Children were trampling it. This is a really ugly group of people who started this recall.

Ted Simons: You were quoted as saying you think “outsiders have high jacked the will of Mesa voters.”

Russell Pearce: Let's qualify that term. This is an outside group of liberals in a district that's elected a Republican. They come through the back door refusing to go through the process that our founders set up, and that's a primary, where your party nominates you. This is a Republican that is endorsed by the Democrats. He's endorsed by the left. To me, I mean, pretty sad when you come through the back door, refuse to do the primary process. We have an election every two years. Every two years. That's a good process. I believe in short terms, I want a short leash on you, I want to remember what you've done good and if you have not kept those promises. This recall is an abuse of the process. It's for keeping my promises, not for doing anything wrong, but for keeping my promises and being successful. 34 states are modeling Arizona. The governor just called me, she's been around the country. Everywhere she goes, standing ovations. America is proud of Arizona. Apparently these folks aren't.

Ted Simons: To that end, your opponent says he doesn't seem to have that much difference on a variety of issues. He says it’s tone. He says it's simply that the nature of the tone, it's bad for Mesa and bad for Arizona. How do you respond?

Russell Pearce: Let's talk about tone. I have a letter by all the legislators but a couple of Republican senators that's talked about me being one of the best leaders, most efficient, effective and good to work with. Krysten Sinema is probably as far left as you can get on our caucus and we get along well. She stopped channel 12 in a debate and said, simply not true, I love President Pearce, he is fair. Simply not true. Talk about tone, let's turn the tables a little bit. In a debate, Mr. Lewis calls Arizona racist, calls Mesa racist, compares us to 1964 Alabama.

Ted Simons: Stop right there though.

Russell Pearce: Is that the tone he wants?

Ted Simons: Stop right there though. He says he didn't compare Arizona to 1964 Alabama, he has heard others compare.

Russell Pearce: No, that's not true. He had a chance to recant it. I was right there in the meeting when the media said, “Do you mean that?” He said yes.

Ted Simons: So you’re saying he said it?

Russell Pearce: He said it. I was there. Go get the tapes.

Ted Simons: I want to make sure we're clear on this.

Russell Pearce: Go get the tape. He says he's embarrassed for Arizona and Mesa of the image. He compared to it 1964 Alabama. How embarrassing can that be?

Ted Simons: Back to the original question: Do you think Mesa voters want a change in tone from their representative?

Russell Pearce: No. They have elected me 16 times counting primaries and generals. I've kept every promise I've ever made. We’ve been successful. I'm 100% pro-life. I've led the charge to protect property rights from the abuse of government and the domain. I was a prominent sponsor of the marriage amendment to protect marriage between a man and a woman. I wrote the legislation and put it on the ballot, passed overwhelmingly by voters to eliminate affirmative action. I’ve put four ballot on in ’06 that passed by 75% of Arizonans.

Ted Simons: And yet, and yet, these outsiders were able to get enough signatures for really an unprecedented recall election. How do you explain that?

Russell Pearce: Money. You know, and even the guy who had that, Randy Perez, admitted almost everybody they contacted didn't know anything about Russell Pearce. That was his own statement that we have. These are folks again that they have paid signature gatherers to go for months to get signatures.

Ted Simons: You mentioned SB 1070. Passing that law, getting the notoriety of passing that law and pushing that law, was that good for Mesa? Was that good for Arizona?

Russell Pearce: It's good for everybody. Again, 34 states writing legislation modeled after SB 1070. Let me tell you the statement I just had from Phoenix Police Department, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. They just gave me statement. They have a 30-year low in crime, and they have 600 police vacancies and they attribute it all to SB 1070. It goes on. The safest streets in over 30 years, attributed to SB 1070. That’s law enforcement

Ted Simons: Did Mesa voters put you into office though to pass laws that constantly bring up court fights regarding preemption?

Russell Pearce: Of course they did. It's about state’s rights. Let me tell you with preemption that’s a wonderful orbit. The Supreme Court just gave us a 5-3 decision on employer sanctions. That was the same arguments of that preemption. There's never been a preemption. This is another myth they love to play up. States have inherent police powers under the constitution to enforce these laws. There has never about a preemption. There has been a lack of political will. The only impediment to enforce these laws has been local. The lack of politicians and local police chiefs that do their jobs.

Ted Simons: I want to keep it moving because there are a lot of issues. Two hundred and thirty some odd million dollars cut to education. The cuts to education, is that good for Mesa, is that good for Arizona?

Russell Pearce: With the deficit we had, education is half the budget. We have 15% fewer employees in government today. We only cut education 1.5%. We have always protected education. And we lead the nation in school choice. In fact, I work with the governor and Jon Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Construction to, create pay for performance. So we start rewarding teachers and principals who achieve high academic success in the classroom. We have a lot of things we are going to do to even make education better for those who perform.

Ted Simons: Is there more room to cut state funding of education?

Russell Pearce: It's not a matter of more room. There's never a government that can't afford to be more efficient, more effective and we know that. We favor, we support education. We've protected education and we will continue to protect education. I have children and grandchildren in school. All my kids went to private-- public school. Good grief, we're pro-education.

Ted Simons: What about AHCCCS, state Medicaid program, as far as freezing eligibility. Cutting folks from those rolls. Is that good for Mesa? Is that good for Arizona?

Russell Pearce: It's good for Arizona. We're the fifth most richest AHCCCS program in the nation. One out of five Arizonans are on AHCCCS. You can't sustain that kind of abuse. It is just out of control. We've made modest arrangements. We still are one of the richest programs in America. We're way above federal standards and federal requirement for Medicaid. You betcha. We're trying to do is bring back accountability. The taxpayers pay for all this so we're just trying to put some responsibility and transparency back into the system you and I pay for that has been overly abused and used.

Ted Simons: You've got cuts to AHCCCS, cuts to education. Something specific to Mesa?

Russell Pearce: 31-16, and the governor signed it. Russell Pearce is doing his job. The collaboration of getting a budget out.

Ted Simons: You are a big proponent of these things. You help push these things through.

Russell Pearce: The first time in years that Arizona passed out a constitutionally balanced budget, we're proud of that.

Ted Simons: Some were saying there were gimmicks in there.

Russell Pearce: No, there weren't. Another fabrication. No gimmicks, no bonding, no borrowing. We have additional debt to pay off. We pay $325 million a year just on the cost of debt in Arizona. We have to pay that debt down.

Ted Simons: The mayor of Mesa among many local municipal leaders saying at the state legislature that you and the people you lead at the capitol are meddling in municipal affairs and to knock it off, let the cities take care themselves. You guys should have all the people, of all people you should understand that the city would know best on how to manage finances.

Russell Pearce: They’ve got to go read the constitution. These are political subdivisions. We medal all the time. In the state, any powered authority is delegated, unlike the states which is inherent. We limited the federal government in articles I, II, and III to their limited and enumerated powers. The states created the cities and the counties. They are political subdivisions. The title alone should give them some clue. We only medal when it’s appropriate, when things are out of abuse.

Ted Simons: But when so many municipal leaders, including the mayor of Mesa you’re running in that district over there.

Russell Pearce: He signed my endorsement.

Ted Simons: I understand, that may be. He's saying this has gone too far as far as the state legislature getting involved.

Russell Pearce: We disagree. They had gone too far, many of the cities. Mesa is one of the better on not going too far. Like on impact fees, if you want to grow the economy and people have a right to a dream, and that's buying their own home. When you have impact fees that reach 20-25 thousand on top of other premiums and fees, it's gone too far. The affordability of the house is out of control. All we did was rein that in, created transparency and accountability. If that's going too far? Absolutely not. Protecting the taxpayer runaway back door taxes.

Ted Simons: We’re running out of time here. There’s more things I need to cover. I want your thoughts on the Olivia Cortes controversy.

Russell Pearce: You know, it’s kind of interesting they keep using this as a controversy. I don't know Olivia, I've never met Olivia, I didn't get her in the race, I didn’t get her out of the race. Not at all. I’ve never met her today.

Ted Simons: Were you involved in any part of her candidacy?

Russell Pearce: No. I’m going to say it again. I don't know her, I've never talked to her, I've never been engaged in any of that. I've got a couple of family members that collect signatures and they do it for people all the time. Let's talk about a sham candidate. People outside of our district bringing in a candidate, you know, Jerry Lewis. You have people inside of a district bringing forth a candidate and they are the bad guys? She filed before Jerry Lewis. Let me finish here, this is really important. What's really the sad case nobody talks about, this lady was ran out. She was intimidated. Jerry Lewis himself tried to talk her out of race and then sued her. Where's Gloria Allred when you need her? They violated this gal’s rights by threatening and intimidating her she drops out the race. She had a right, is my point.

Ted Simons: Critics were saying if you did not know this and some folks in your family or campaign were implicated, you should have known.

Ted Simons: They probably didn't tell me, the point is, they did nothing wrong. Two of my nieces collect signatures. Let me tell you a story I think is important. One of them came over to my house tomorrow night worried that she had hurt my campaign, because we have different last names never thought about it. Shed tears because she was so concerned about the damage caused from an honest effort, did nothing wrong. Shame on the media for the way they have treated Olivia and my family who have the right to gather signatures to put someone on the ballot.

Ted Simons: This entire experience, everything we've talked about today start to finish, has it humbled you? Will it change you if you're put back in office?

Russell Pearce: I like to think I have a good heart just like my grandchildren. I'm a tender hearted guy when it comes to family, God, country. I'm not bashful about sharing my feelings and my love to this republic. I fight every day for freedom and less government, I'm the number one legislator for defense of taxpayers and freedom and I love this country. I would hope I would stay humble about this. I have a very tender heart when it comes to family, community and what's right.

Ted Simons: We have to stop you right there. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Russell Pearce: Thank you.

Ted Simons: That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.