A plan to revamp the state’s recall laws for all future elections fell apart Thursday as some Republican senators broke party ranks. On an 18-10 vote the Senate killed a House-passed measure which would have required both a primary and a general election in the event of a recall. Foes said they saw no reason to alter a system that has been in place since the early days of Arizona statehood. And its fate may have been sealed by a late alteration that created an even more convoluted system where a recalled official actually could be defeated in his or her own partisan primary and yet still be on the general election ballot.
Current law allows the recall of any elected official once there are petitions with the equivalent of 25 percent of the people who voted in the last election. At that point the recalled official faces off against all contenders who gather sufficient nominating signatures, regardless of party.
Some Republican lawmakers said that’s not fair because it allows Democrats and independents to align with disaffected Republicans to remove an incumbent in a heavily Republican district.
That’s pretty much what happened in 2011 when foes of Senate President Russell Pearce forced a recall and lined up fellow Republican Jerry Lewis to run against him in what turned out to be a two-way race, resulting in a Lewis victory.
Pearce supporters contend that he would have won a Republican-only primary against Lewis. And the chances of a Democrat winning in the general election in that Mesa district would have been slim.