Arizona Reelects Hard-Core Nativist Politician

Hate in the Mainstream

Forced out as an Arizona state representative after eight years because of term limits, immigrant-bashing legislator Russell Pearce was elected to the state Senate in November. A Republican from Mesa, Pearce defeated his Democratic opponent by getting 56% of the vote.

Several months before the election, Pearce wrote a letter to Glenn Spencer's anti-immigrant hate website, americanpatrol.com, seeking $5 contributions. His campaign also received money from Rusty Childress, a Phoenix car dealer and president of United for a Sovereign America, a hard-line nativist extremist group; Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps; and Al Rodriguez, a retired Army colonel who heads You Don't Speak For Me!, a group bankrolled by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Simcox and Rodriguez also served on Pearce's campaign committee.

Pearce is the former deputy sheriff who E-mailed an anti-Semitic article from the neo-Nazi National Alliance website to supporters in October 2005. After he was lambasted for that remarkable move, he claimed that he hadn't read the screed in its entirety. He once dismissed critics of his use of the word "wetback" as "sissies."

Pearce latched onto immigration hard as an Arizona legislator, co-authoring an initiative to ban the use of Spanish in most official communications. The state legislature in 2007 passed his bill that provided for the suspension of a business's license if it was caught knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. A second offense within five years results in permanent revocation.

Arizona business groups opposed the law and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a proposition on the November ballot that would have loosened its requirements. It was soundly defeated, so in essence Pearce scored two election victories. "We've got a great, smart electorate here in Arizona," he said.

Russell Pearce promises to continue to push for tough anti-immigrant legislation as a state senator. "I will not back off until we solve the problem of this illegal invasion," he told National Public Radio last year. "Invaders, that's what they are. Invaders on the American sovereignty, and it can't be tolerated."