Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce lost a recall election Tuesday night to fellow Republican candidate Jerry Lewis, a charter school executive. Pearce is best known as the author of SB 1070, a controversial immigration law that made it a misdemeanor crime for a legal immigrant to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents, and required law enforcement officials to determine an individual's immigration status during a stop or detention if there was reasonable doubt, among other provisions. Critics said that the law encouraged racial profiling.
The more controversial elements of the law were by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is seeking a Supreme Court ruling to overturn that decision.
The election came after a recall petition drive gathered more than 10,000 signatures against Pearce.
Pearce represented a heavily Mormon district in Mesa, Arizona, Legislative District 18. Both Pearce and Lewis are Mormons, but the Mormon Church has not been happy with Pearce, or his immigration platform. The Church of Latter-Day Saints wishes to portray itself as kinder and more gentle when it comes to immigration.
Businesses also supported the ousting of Pearce in favor of Lewis. The controversial immigration laws led to boycotts of Arizona and Arizona businesses by those who opposed it, including the city of Los Angeles, costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in business. (However, LA's ban has not always been enforced, and is still hotly debated.)
Though some Democrats, such as Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Andy Barr, spoke as if this were a victory, Jerry Lewis is a very conservative Republican. While immigration surely played a large role in his defeat, so did a pair of scandals that eroded support among his base.
Pearce's credibility suffered a blow earlier this year in a scandal that centered around the Fiesta Bowl. He illegally accepted 40,000 dollars in tickets from the officials while ensuring the game received state subsidies.
He is also alleged to have put Olivia Cortes, a third candidate, on the ballot, in order to split Lewis's vote.
Illegal immigration has already been a contentious issue in the 2012 GOP Presidential race.