People and Politics: December 2011
ARIZONA REPUBLICANS CHOSE STEVE PIERCE to replace recalled Senator Russell Pearce as Senate president shortly following the election. Pierce won the leadership post by an 11-10 vote, defeating Pearce ally and Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs. Pierce voted against five immigration bills sponsored by the former Senate president, including a measure to deny citizenship to children born of undocumented parents. But Pierce expressed support for Pearce, saying, “We’re going to continue the good things that Russell started. He did a wonderful job. He did not deserve what happened to him.” Senator Frank Antenori takes over as whip, Pierce’s previous position.
RUSSELL PEARCE, THE ARCHITECT OF ARIZONA’S CONTROVERSIAL IMMIGRATION LAW and president of the Senate, was defeated in a recall election Nov. 8 by a fellow conservative Republican and charter school executive. Jerry Lewis defeated Pearce, who had been involved in an ethics scandal and allegations of underhanded campaign activity, by 54 percent. Pearce accepted contributions of $1,025 from Fiesta Bowl officials and he was accused of accepting illegal gifts for tickets and trips to games, which he denies. His supporters reportedly put a third candidate on the ballot to try to divert votes from Lewis. Republican strategists say the Mormon Church played a role in the recall. Both Pearce and Lewis are members of the church and Lewis is a former bishop. He received the backing of church leaders because Pearce’s tough immigration stance was hindering the church’s outreach efforts to Hispanics and missionary efforts in Latin America.
PAUL SCOTT WAS YOUNG, HARVARD-EDUCATED AND THE FIRST BLACK REPUBLICAN ELECTED TO THE MICHIGAN HOUSE in more than 100 years when he won a seat at age 26 in 2008. In November, by 197 votes, he became the first lawmaker recalled in the state since 1983. Chair of the House Education Committee at a time the Legislature made big cuts to schools, Scott was the only one of several dozen lawmakers in both parties targeted for recall to lose his seat.
THREE MASSACHUSETTS LAWMAKERS have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Representative Harold Naughton Jr., a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, left Fort Benning, Ga., in October for a 200-day tour in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan. Representative Jerald Parisella, a major in the Army Reserve, was deployed to Iraq one month after his election to the House and is serving as a judge advocate general. Senator Michael Rush, a lieutenant in the Navy Reserves, was elected to the Senate last November after serving in the House and was deployed to Iraq in March.
THE NOVEMBER ELECTION MADE HISTORY IN THE NEW JERSEY LEGISLATURE. Three incumbents—all Republicans—were elected to the newly remapped 11th district, making it the first all female delegation. Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande won their seats in the first election after reapportionment. In New Jersey, voters elect one senator and two representatives from each district. In addition, four women of color—all Democrats—were elected to the Assembly: Marlene Caride, Angelica Jimenez, Gabriela Mosquera and Shavonda Sumter. With their election, the Legislature now has a record number of women of color—15.
ALSO IN NEW JERSEY, SENATOR LORETTA WEINBERG was chosen by the Democratic caucus to replace Senator Barbara Buono as majority leader. Buono decided right before the caucus met not to seek re-election to her post, reportedly because she did not have the votes and chose to step aside. Senator Stephen Sweeney will continue as Senate president and Senator Thomas Kean Jr. will continue as minority leader. In the Assembly, Louis Greenwald was chosen majority leader by the caucus to replace Joseph Cryan. Greenwald has been budget committee chair since 2002 and had the strong backing of South Jersey Democrats. Speaker Sheila Oliver continues in her post as does Republican Leader Alex DeCroce.
IDAHO REPRESENTATIVE PATRICK TAKASUGI, A TWO-TERM LAWMAKER, died in November after battling appendix cancer for three years. He was 62. Takasugi was director of the state Department of Agriculture for 10 years, serving under three governors before his election to the House. His campaign manager, Gayle Batt, served in his place during the 2011 session while Takasugi underwent treatment for his rare form of cancer. Governor Butch Otter said the state had “lost a great leader” following Takasugi’s death. He “gave selflessly of his time, energy and resources” in serving his constituents and the state, Otter said.