Friday, July 25, 2008

East Valley Tribune: "Group takes aim at Pearce's state Senate bid"

By Sonu Munshi

Rep. Russell Pearce is the target of a new political committee that aims to block the Mesa Republican's bid for a state Senate seat.

Pearce said the organizers of the group, Judgment Matters, are people with ties to the business community who are upset with his staunch support of laws that make it tougher for employers to hire illegal immigrants.

Farrell Quinlan, a lobbyist and former executive with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said only that his group is raising money to "inform" voters about Pearce's record as a legislator. Quinlan did not link the effort specifically to Pearce's sponsorship of legislation that makes it tougher for illegal immigrants to live and work in Arizona. Quinlan did say that the first priority of Judgment Matters is to prevent Pearce from winning the Senate seat in District 18, which includes central and west Mesa.

"We hope to show District 18 Republican primary voters a more complete picture of his public record and show that some of his positions may not represent their interests or views," Quinlan said.

Quinlan did not divulge how many people had pledged support or how much money has been raised thus far.

But voters can expect some "information" to hit their mailboxes around the same time as early ballots arrive at the end of the month.

Pearce, who is being challenged in the Republican Senate primary by Kevin Gibbons, said business groups are going after him because of his support for measures like Proposition 200, the 2004 ballot initiative that barred illegal migrants from receiving state benefits.

Pearce also led the drive for a law that went into effect this year that allows prosecutors to shut down businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

"It's all being done by the open borders, fast food, cheap labor crowd," Pearce said. "These people fought me on Prop. 200, sued me over (the) employer sanctions law and now they're coming at me with a vengeance."

As an independent committee, Judgment Matters cannot coordinate its efforts with Gibbons, but can raise and spend money urging voters not to vote for Pearce.

Pearce said backers of Judgment Matters are the same people who support the Stop Illegal Hiring Act, which he said would "gut" the new employer sanctions law if it is passed by voters in November.

Quinlan is a former vice president of the state chamber of commerce's policy development and communications department. Mark Ogden, a labor lawyer and chairman of Judgment Matters, could not be reached for comment.

Pearce said he believes another newly formed committee, Mesa Deserves Better, is also targeting his campaign. Nathan Sproul, chairman of Mesa Deserves Better, did not disclose the reason behind the group. Sproul is the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party.

But Pearce isn't too rattled by these committees. He said he has enough Republican support to win the Sept. 2 primary.
"I'm the most Republican representative in the Legislature, yet they're trying to take me out because I'm for the rule of law?" Pearce said.

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