Mesa Residents Talk Recall

November 19, 2011

The results of Mesa’s recall election will become official later this morning, as the Arizona Secretary of State certifies them.  KJZZ’s Mark Brodie spoke to some residents of legislative district 18, to get their take on what happened.


Pundits have suggested the recall results were a referendum on everything from SB 1070 to Arizona’s overall approach to illegal immigration to Russell Pearce himself.  Brent Ellsworth, a registered Republican who voted for Jerry Lewis says for most residents, the election was not all about illegal immigration.

BRENT ELLSWORTH: "It was more about an abrasiveness, a desire to have someone as a representative who would be more inclusive, and not just sort of trying to dogmatically ramrod through things that really in our district, were not as important as more critical issues like jobs and education."

But one Pearce supporter says the race essentially became a popularity contest.

GALEN UPDIKE: "I think in LD 18, it was as much a referendum on his style as it was about illegal immigration."

Galen Updike is a registered Republican, and voted for Russell Pearce.  He actually preceded Pearce in the state house, after being appointed to temporarily fill a vacancy in 2000.  Updike has known Pearce for more than a decade, but he’s also known Jerry Lewis for about the same amount of time, and considers both friends.  And, Updike says, he wasn’t alone.

GALEN UPDIKE: "Well, what was very funny to me, was, and it was a joke, we had Russell Pearce signs and Jerry Lewis signs in the same yards.  In fact, in one of the yards on the street, they were stacked on each other.  So, there was a huge amount of, shall we say, division."

Before the election, many residents talked about the emotion involved in the race.  But Lewis supporter Brent Ellsworth says the bad feelings shouldn’t last too long.

BRENT ELLSWORTH: "There are really good, respectable, honorable people on both sides of this.  We just have different opinions on what the outcomes should have been…but I don’t really think there’s gonna be long lasting riffs in the neighborhoods, or among neighbors. Everybody gets along fine."

Ellsworth says there may be some people that hold grudges, but he doesn’t think it’ll be anything that will be too difficult to overcome.  Pearce supporter Galen Updike agrees, saying Republicans will make up.

GALEN UPDIKE: "They will have more reasons to be good neighbors than this one political event."

JANA McKAY: "I know of several personal incidents where people said, ‘well, I’m never speaking to you again because you’re voting this way, or you’re voting this way.  I didn’t have that happen to me personally, but I heard friends saying, hearing from another friend, well I can’t, I’m never speaking to you again."

Jana McKay is one of the almost 19,000 Democrats in district 18, and voted for Jerry Lewis.  She says some Republicans who supported Lewis have more sympathy now for what it’s like to be in the minority.

JANA McKAY: "In our neighborhood, all the Jerry Lewis signs were stolen, and we were talking about it with a neighbor, and the neighbor said, ‘Is this what it feels like to be a Democrat in this district? Is this what it’s like to get your signs stolen?’  And we just said, “No, basically you’re ignored, no one pays attention to you…’  But they were just realizing, ‘Oh,’ taking a second look, saying, ‘Well maybe I do this to other people and it doesn’t feel good.’"

McKay believes Pearce’s loss was the result of self-inflicted wounds by his supporters….citing illegal campaign signs, the Olivia Cortes incident and robocalls that some residents found offensive.  And, the campaign itself might be problematic for Pearce down the road.  Again, Brent Ellsworth.

BRENT ELLSWORTH: "I have voted for him every time he’s run in the past, until this time.

Q: Is there anything that he could do or say that would convince you to vote for him again in the future, do you think?
A: No. I can’t see any way that I would ever support him in another campaign."

Ellsworth says he knows Pearce might not have known about everything that his supporters were doing on his behalf.  But, he says he tries to hold Pearce accountable for the things he has said and done.  And, while the longtime legislator hasn’t said whether he plans to run again, supporter Galen Updike says if he does, he’ll be a formidable candidate.

GALEN UPDIKE: "He will have a lot of enthusiasm, and many Republicans who maybe don’t like his personality will also see the recall process as being misused in this particular case…and they will also support Russell in the primary."

Updike points out candidate deadlines for next year’s elections are coming up in the next several months, and predicts that will help heal any lingering wounds left by this year’s recall.

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