Russell Pearce supporters wave their hands silently in the air, a form of applause called "twinkling" during a debate in Mesa Thursday night.
There's an election in Mesa next month. Russell Pearce, the fiercely conservative, fiercely Republican and darling of the Tea Party, President of the Arizona State Senate is the subject of a recall election and is being forced to defend his seat from a challenge by a Jerry Lewis, a fellow Republican. The Democrats are not running a candidate against Pearce, who is from one of the most consistently Republican legislative districts in the state.
The two men met for a debate in Mesa Thursday night.
Pearce, a long time politician, talked about his accomplishments - his authorship of and the passage of SB 1070, one of the most strict anti-immigration bills in the country; his support for lower taxes and support of gun owners' rights.
Lewis, a political novice running for office for the first time, talked about his vision for a better Arizona, one not sullied by the extremism some say Pearce has caused.
Obviously, neither man talked about the baggage he carries. Pearce blamed the recall on liberal political operatives from outside the district, essentially ignoring the fact that more 15,000 people who live in his district signed petitions calling for his recall. He wasn't asked about and didn't address charges that he improperly accepted gifts from the Fiesta Bowl organization. Nor was he questioned about charges that his supporters actually recruited a third candidate to run against him and take votes away from Lewis. A Maricopa County court found the charges to be true, but the third candidate, Olivia Cortes dropped out of the race, which made the question mute.
Lewis, the newcomer, was not asked about and did not address charges circulating on right wing blogs that he improperly diverted non-monetary gifts away from the charter school he ran.