Editor's note: Mario Solis-Marich is a talk show host whose show is heard on AM-760 radio in Denver. He has worked on election campaigns throughout the Southwest and was an early voice that called for a national boycott of Arizona after SB 1070 passed.
By Mario Solis-Marich, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Apparently, disgust with the anti-immigrant cry embraced by the right-wing nativists in Arizona is not limited to Latinos, or even to Democrats. Last night, the legislative leader of Arizona’s anti-immigrant movement, State Senator Russell Pearce, lost the fight of his political life in a safe Republican district.
The winner Tuesday night, Jerry Lewis, a political newcomer and fellow GOP candidate, has indicated a much softer tone on immigration.
More than 10,000 signatures supported Pearce’s recall, and at the polls, Lewis led 53.4% to Pearce's 45.3%.
Pearce outspent his opponent three to one, was supported by the GOP party leadership and received massive volunteer assistance by the anti-immigrant apparatus. Despite the advantages given to him last night, stunningly, Pearce found himself in a losing battle. While the coalition that ended Pearce’s extended angry man rant was broad, no small credit for its glue goes to the general agreement was that he was too extreme on immigration. A careful view of the state's demographic map indicates that the days of anti-immigrant GOP rule in Arizona are limited. If demographics are indeed destiny, the desert sands have shifted under the feet of politicians from both parties.
Latino population numbers in the Grand Canyon state surged by 46% during the last decade. Arizona’s Latino population grew from 25% in 2000 to 30% in 2010.The impact of the growth of the Hispanic population means that the folks like Pearce, who brought forward the anti-immigrant law known as SB 1070, will soon have much less political clout. Soon, many anti-immigrant Arizona Republicans may be looking for second careers.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who supported the immigration bill, raised eyebrows last week when she jumped on a plane to New York City to promote her new literary effort, “Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interest, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border.” The book’s name came from a statement made from Chuck Norris - some say the aging actor was talking about her strong will; others look at the Norris statement as an unintended recognition of the bitter partisan meal she served herself by abandoning common sense for her political ambitions. As Brewer pumped her new superstar media career, there was much to consider for lower profile Arizona Republicans without literary agents.
Brewer’s party may have recognized that the predicted Pearce defeat was only a grain of a political sand storm ahead. Before the Governor had left for the Big Apple, she called a special session of the legislature to vote out the leader of the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission, the group that redraws congressional and legislative districts to reflect the changes in the state’s population. Brewer and her fellow Republicans said the commission approved maps that would make Democratic incumbents safer and make some GOP-heavy districts more competitive.
The irony is, as part of the federal government’s Voting Rights Act of 1965, any Arizona redistricting maps must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department. While Brewer, Pearce and company may desperately attempt to stop their political fates, the maps currently they're thwarting might be better for them than the ones they actually end up with. The Latino demographic shift was cemented over the last decade. Worry within the ranks of the anti-immigrant right, while justifiable, is useless.
On the private sector side, things have been no better for them. Arizona tourist representatives have been aggressively working their contacts for the last year, trying to stave off the impact of one of the most effective American economic boycotts in recent memory. The cost of the boycott against Arizona after the anti-immigrant law SB 1070 is impossible to fully weigh, but the pain for the state has been enormous. The continued loss of revenue suffered by the state - whose slogan, “The Grand Canyon State,” refers to its biggest tourist attraction - has thwarted any promise of post-recession economic recovery. This alone has cast a dreadful shadow on the state’s hard right movement.
But now, all eyes are on the Pearce recall results. As the once powerful and boastful state senator sat waiting for some type of last minute electoral miracle, his thoughts may have turned to the past two years. The man who played a key leadership role into turning a once quiet resort state into a political fire pit probably could not help but wonder how he found himself in such a predicament. The days of political wine and roses are gone for the exiled state senator and it would be he that would wake to a plate of scorpions for breakfast.