Russell Pearce (born June 23, 1947) is a Republican Arizona State Senator representing Legislative District 18, which covers most of western and central Mesa and small portions of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Arizona, USA. He became President of the Arizona Senate when the Senate began its current term in January 2011. He previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives. Pearce is most widely known for sponsoring Arizona SB1070, a controversial anti-illegal alien measure, and for being recalled from office in July 2011. His recall election is scheduled for November 2011.
Russell K. Pearce, a fifth-generation Arizonan, was born on June 23, 1947 to Hal Frost Pearce and Norma Crandell.
He grew up in a troubled and impoverished home with an alcoholic father; he recalled in past interviews that when he came home from school, he sometimes found that neighbors had left groceries for the family, but his mother would always put the food to the side, not wishing to accept charity. Pearce wanted to attend medical school, but his family was unable to afford it, which led him to join the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. Pearce served with the National Guard in Arizona during the Vietnam War. Pearce served as a sheriff's deputy for 23 years, including a stint as Chief Deputy Sheriff under Joe Arpaio. After an incident where he continued to pursue several gang members after being shot in the chest, he received a Medal of Valor from the Department. Pearce's son, Sean Pearce, has also been awarded the Medal of Valor for being shot in the line of duty while serving a homicide warrant on an illegal alien. Pearce claims credit for one of Arpaio's more publicized and controversial actions, that of housing jail inmates in tents. Following disagreements with Arpaio, Pearce moved to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division. In 1995 Pearce became the Director of the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division. Two notable accomplishments during his tenure were: 1) bringing in IBM to create the first version of servicearizona.com, an online resource for Arizonans to update their Motor Vehicle Department information and 2) more controversially, Pearce enrolled Arizona in the then optional (at the federal level) National Drivers Registry program, making collection of social security numbers for drivers' licenses mandatory at the state level to comply with the (then optional) federal program. This caused a controversy at the time because he caused SSNs to be displayed on the face of the drivers license, causing the state legislature to have to later take up legislation to obfuscate the SSN, replacing it with a "D"# which is seen today. However, the SSN is still collected at the time of application or via SSOLV, and remains on the AZ drivers license file. Pearce oversaw the implementation of a law requiring that applicants for drivers licenses provide either a birth certificate proving they are United States citizens, or documents proving they are in the United States legally. Pearce was discharged from the position of Director of the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division in August 1999 by Arizona Department of Transportation Director Mary Peters, after an investigation revealed that two of Pearce's subordinates had tampered with a Tucson woman's driving record. Pearce later said he was cleared of wrongdoing, but Peters told the Arizona Republic "There’s a big difference between being cleared and choosing not to file criminal charges" He was elected to the Arizona legislature in 2000. Conservative tax activist Grover Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, named Pearce a "Hero of the Taxpayers" for 2003.
On May 31, 2011 Citizens for a Better Arizona turned in 18,315 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office to recall Russell Pearce. On July 8, the Arizona Secretary of State's Office officially verified that the recall petitions had sufficient signatures. On July 12, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer issued an order calling a special recall election in November. Pearce is the first state lawmaker in Arizona history to be recalled. Mesa Republican Jerry Lewis has announced he will stand against Senator Pearce.
Independent Tommy Cattey also filed to become candidates in the recall election. Pearce's supporters recruited Republican Olivia Cortes to run in the recall election to split the anti-Pearce vote. Cortes later dropped out of the race; as of October 2011, several members of Pearce's campaign effort are accused of Class 5 felonies for their role in the sham candidacy.
Russell Pearce lives in Mesa, Arizona with his wife, LuAnne. He has five children, Dodi, Sean, Colten, Justin, and Joshua.