How what many labeled a quixotic recall movement led to the ouster of Arizona’s most powerful politician

Citizens for a Better Arizona leader Randy Parraz speaks during a press conference at the state Capitol on Jan. 10, 2011, warning then-Senate President Russell Pearce to not pursue what Parraz deemed an extremist agenda during the legislative session. /Photo courtesy of Citizens for a Better Arizona.

Commentary by James E. Garcia | Arizona Mirror

One of the great stories in Arizona politics involves the recall 10 years ago this month of then-Republican Senate President Russell Pearce, the far-right author of the single most anti-immigrant bill in modern U.S. history, Senate Bill 1070.

More commonly known as the “show us your papers” law, its passage wreaked terror in the immigrant community, sparked a national economic boycott of Arizona, and supercharged an already growing progressive movement whose reverberations are still being felt across state politics today.

One of the people inspired to counter the threat posed by Pearce’s political ascent was Randy Parraz, a longtime community organizer and the founder and president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, which formed to drive the 2011 recall effort.

“I just couldn’t believe that someone with that type of extremist views — racist, anti-Latino — could be rewarded for that type of behavior.

That’s what really captured me and (made me decide and) say I have to do something,” said Parraz, who recently published, “Dignity by Fire,” a book about the recall.

For Parraz, Pearce’s draconian views on immigration were just the tip of the iceberg. “Of even greater concern to some families was his insistence on cutting Medicaid, rejecting billions of health care dollars from the federal government and eliminating funds to assist patients waiting for organ transplants,” Parraz writes. Pearce had also presided over a Senate that cut nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in funding from K–12 education.

“He was extreme in many ways,” Parraz said. “Anti-union, anti-worker, anti-women. He wanted to change laws to make it more difficult to press charges against a man when they committed domestic violence against a woman.”


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November 2021