GOP defections kill bill to change recall elections

2013-04-19T00:00:00Z GOP defections kill bill to change recall electionsHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
April 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - A plan to revamp the state's recall laws for all future elections fell apart Thursday when some Republican senators broke party ranks.

On an 18-10 vote, the Senate killed a House-passed measure that would have required both a primary and a general election in the event of a recall. Foes said they saw no reason to alter a system that has been in place since the early days of Arizona statehood.

Its fate may have been sealed by a late alteration that created an even more convoluted system - a provision where a recalled official could lose his or her own partisan primary and still be on the general election ballot.

Recall elections consist of a single vote where all candidates who file enough nominating petitions face off, regardless of party.

Some Republican lawmakers said that's not fair because it allows Democrats and independents to align with disaffected Republicans to remove an incumbent in a heavily Republican district.

That's pretty much what happened in 2011 when foes of Senate President Russell Pearce forced a recall and lined up fellow Republican Jerry Lewis to run against him in what turned out to be a two-way race, resulting in a Lewis victory.

Pearce supporters contend he would have won a Republican-only primary against Lewis. And once he emerged from the primary, the chances of a Democrat winning the general election in that Mesa district would have been slim.

So led by Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, Pearce backers crafted the dual-election plan.

But Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said he sees no need for such a radical change.

"I'm very comfortable right now with the way recalls are structured in the state of Arizona," he said, pointing out that recalls are rare. No statewide elected official has ever faced a recall, and Pearce as the only legislator go through one.

Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, said what sealed her opposition was the alteration to guarantee the recalled official would be included on the general election ballot, even if he or she was rejected in the primary.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said the change was necessary because the Arizona Constitution mandates any official have a spot on the general election ballot.

Thursday's vote is more than a rebuff of Pearce supporters.

HB 2282 would have been retroactive to the beginning of the year, which means it would have applied to the current bid to boot Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who backers said could survive a Republican primary. And given the GOP voter-registration edge in Maricopa County, he would have an advantage in any general election.

Although there is talk of resurrecting the bill, with defecting Republicans and solid opposition of Democrats, it is questionable whether supporters could get the necessary votes.

GOP opposition includes Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who defeated Pearce in a Republican primary last year, before easily beating a Democratic challenger.

On StarNet: To read more about local and state government and political news, go to azstarnet.com/politics

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