Born on June 23, 1947 as one of thirteen children in Mesa, Senator Russell Pearce is a fifth-generation Arizonan on both his mother's and his father’s side. His family has long served the public interests of Arizona and its people. His Great, Great Grandfather Harrison Pearce built the Pearce Ferry on Lake Mead. His Great Grandfather James Pearce founded Taylor Arizona in the 1860’s. His Great Uncle Joe Pearce was one of the original Arizona Rangers serving from 1901-1909.
Pearce’s youth was tough. His family was poor and his father was an alcoholic without a steady job which caused the family to move from one squalid rental home to another. Pearce recalled in an Arizona Republic article that his father “was a good man, but he was very weak. He wasn’t the kind of dad, or husband he should have been. Pearce describes his mother as “a saint”. He does not ever remember going to bed she was not still up working or getting up that she was not already up working. Her integrity, do-it-yourself attitude, and sense of personal responsibility influenced Pearce’s core political beliefs. In an Arizona Republic article Pearce recounts how as a child, upon returning home one afternoon with his family, they discovered groceries left by a good Samaritan. Despite the helpful and necessary gift, Pearce’s mother refused to let her children touch the groceries, explaining, “it was her job to raise her family”. Consistent with that belief, though they could have used the help, his mother “never took a penny from government or anybody else.”
After high school, from 1967 to 1969, Pearce went on a church mission in the Northeastern United States where he, among other things, worked on projects to beautify neighborhoods and tended to the youth, the elderly and sick.
Throughout his youth, Pearce was interested in becoming a doctor but due to financial constraints, instead, upon returning to Arizona, opted to join the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, his second love. He served in the Sheriff’s Office for over twenty-one years from 1970 until 1991.
Pearce joined the National Guard as a Junior in High school and served for eight years and was Honorable discharged.
Pearce revered the police badge and justice was important to him, an issue which has helped define his political career. He worked all aspects of law enforcement from deputy through Captain, a position he held from 1987-1991. One event, in particular, on July 2, 1977 defines Pearce and his time with the Sheriff’s Office. While patrolling in Guadalupe, Pearce spotted several teenage gang members carrying what appeared to be beer and after confronting them. The teenagers were uncooperative and one of them instructed his Doberman to attack Pearce. While struggling with the dog and one of the teenage subjects the dogs owner, another teenager seized Pearce’s .357 Magnum. Pearce smacked the dog with his flashlight and let go of the one teenager and grabbed for the gun, as the teenager aimed and shot. The bullet dismembered Pearce’s right ring finger before it traveled into his chest. Pearce wasn’t wearing a protective vest. Despite his wound, he continued his efforts and was able to wrestle one of the teenagers into his squad car. While calling for backup, Pearce realized the severity of his wounds yet continued pursuing the other two teenagers were still in possession of his gun. For his work, dedication and consistent bravery, Pearce received the Medal of Valor, the highest given award in law enforcement for exceptional bravery.
The remainder of his time with the Sheriff’s Office was productive and celebrated. He was five times nominated Deputy of the Year and Young Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. In addition to and despite his full-time job and married with children, Pearce earned his Bachelor of Arts in Management from the University of Phoenix in 1981 and later was recognized as the University of Phoenix as the alumni of the year.
Pearce worked all areas of law enforcement, including the SWAT (TOU) team, lake patrol, warrants, civil, patrol, training, records and identification in his assignments. His responsibilities also included reporting directly to the sheriff, working with the Legislature, Board of Supervisors, county departments and elected officials.
In March of 1991, Pearce left the Sheriff’s office after he was appointed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to establish and lead the new North Mesa Justice Court, soon rated one of the most efficient courts in Maricopa County.
After a brief eighteen-month stint as Justice of the Peace, Pearce returned to law enforcement as the Chief Deputy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in 1993 for Sheriff Joe. Pearce became known for his political savvy, budget awareness, and fiscal responsibility while directing the operations of the fourth largest sheriff’s office in the nation. One of his accomplishments while Chief Deputy was to create and implement “Tent City” which received national attention and awards for saving millions of dollars in new jail construction costs. At the same time, Pearce wrote and lobbied for the Arizona Automated Fingerprint identification (AFIS). AFIS is a high speed, high capacity image processing system that enhances the ability of the latent fingerprint examiners to search and identify crime scene evidence. Hailed as one of the best and most innovative law enforcement tools for catching criminals, Pearce crafted the system with fees and fines from convicts.
But his resourcefulness did not stop there. Upon learning that Arizona was the leading state in the nation for auto thefts, he created the Arizona Auto Theft Authority and funded it by assessments to insurance companies, requiring no taxpayer dollars. In 2006, the Auto Theft Authority received a national award for being the most effective of its kind in the country with lowering rates and with a return of over 1300% on every dollar spent.
Pearce created the Youth Assistance Foundation to generate positive interaction between youth and law enforcement, raising over a half million dollars and benefiting thousands of youth in its first year.
Other accomplishments include creating a self-funding system to offset the taxpayer’s cost to housing inmates, cooperating with the FBI to create the “Desert Hawk Fugitive Force” (one of the most successful in the nation), and writing and implementing some of the toughest DUI legislation in the nation.
In February of 1994, Pearce became the Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety continuing his get-tough law enforcement policies. He expanded the DUI Task Force into a statewide effort, promoted alcohol “Zero Tolerance” for youth under 21, and received national recognition and a national award for an Hispanic outreach program to reduce DUI’s and underage drinking.
In 1996, Pearce was asked by Governor Symington to become the Director of the Motor Vehicle Department, an offer which he accepted, with an agreement with the Governor to change MVD completely to make more sense and more customer friendly and less costly. His skills as an efficient manager and budgeter were on display when he eliminated the need for more than three million annual transactions and reduced wait times for MVD customers from over two hours to less than twenty minutes. His innovations saved the MVD over $10 million annually in administration costs. In another effort directed at saving the taxpayer time and money, Pearce implemented “Service Arizona,” the first program of its kind in the nation to renew vehicle registrations and other transactions online, 24/7. “Service Arizona” has proven extremely successful (over 2 million annual transactions), meriting an E-Business award from IBM, the first and only presented to a government agency in the world. Pearce’s efforts in MVD caused the University of Phoenix to name him Outstanding Alumni of 1997.
After leaving the MVD in August of 1999, Pearce became a Pro-Tem Judge for the Maricopa County Justice Courts. Pearce, was recruited and did campaign as a Republican to become the State Representative of District 18 (formerly District 29). His love for his state, limited government, family values, lower taxes, reduced regulation and desire to reform government inspired his run. Pearce felt it was his duty to his country to become a state representative so that he could, with common sense and resourcefulness, make government smaller and more efficient, balance the budget, reduce the burden on taxpayers, and preserve liberty.
The voters of District 18 in November of 2000 agreed and elected him to represent them in the Arizona House of Representatives.
Soon after he was sworn into office, however, he suffered a heart attack, followed by a stroke. Yet, Pearce refused to resign and within a few days of his stroke was back at work at the Legislature. This attitude and work ethic has been present throughout Pearce’s time in office as he has worked tirelessly on the behalf of District 18 and the citizens of our State.
Senator Pearce has become known as a public servant, advocating for lower taxes, freedom from government intrusion and restrictions, parental rights, and his support of law enforcement. For many years while in the Legislature, Pearce served as Appropriations Chairman and was responsible for a balanced budget and eliminating the worst, structural deficit in Arizona’s history. Pearce remarked about his chairmanship, “I am the gatekeeper, not the gift giver.”
Under his leadership, a $500 million tax relief for taxpayers in Arizona has been achieved. He authored and sheparded legislation for the largest tax relief package in state history. For his efforts on taxes, Pearce has been awarded “Hero of the Taxpayer” by the national organization Americans for Prosperity. Furthermore, he was the only Arizonan and only one of seven legislators nationally to receive the “Hero of the Taxpayer” award from the American Tax Reform Association. Similarly, the Arizona Tax Payers Association has consistently rated him as the number one “Friend of the Tax Payer.”
Pearce has been instrumental in protecting private property rights and guaranteed constitutional liberties. He was the prime sponsor of legislation to stop abuse of Eminent Domain and protect private property rights. He sponsored SB1108, also known as “Freedom to Carry,” which allows law abiding citizens their Constitutional right to carry, open or concealed guns in the process receiving an A+ rating from the NRA and a top ranking from the Arizona Citizens Defense League. Pearce was recognized by the Goldwater Institute as the number one legislator who “proved to be the strongest ally… against government encroachment on liberty.”
And while Senator Pearce is well known for his work on behalf of taxpayers, he is quietly lauded for his compassion. For example in 2006, Pearce sponsored HB 2371 that provided funding for children with autism to “increase programming capacity for those affected by autism and improve the quality of service they receive” (Southwest Autism Research and Resource magazine Outreach, 29). As described in the SARRC magazine, Pearce “understood the fiscal ramifications of long-term cost avoidance for autism services and had deep compassion for the pain that many families with autism are experiencing” (Outreach, 29).
Similarly, this year (2011), Pearce was honored by Arizona School Public Relations Association for his outstanding contributions to public education.
Additionally, in a ceremony at Arizona State University, Pearce was named a “Champion for ASU” for his support of students, their families, and higher education.
And, without describing every achievement and every award, he was honored by the Arizona Technology Council for protecting and advancing Arizona as a top tier technology state.
But possibly Pearce’s greatest and most controversial achievements are associated with illegal immigration. Pearce has introduced and authored several propositions against illegal immigration. He believes, “that you have to have permission to enter this country just like you have to have permission to enter my home.” His unwavering persistence has seen Pearce author the Arizona Legal Workers Act, Prop 100 which prevents individuals who are here illegally, who commit serious crimes from being released on bond (passed by 78% of Arizona voters); Prop 102 which prevents the same from receiving punitive damages; and Prop 200, also known as Protect Arizona NOW. Prop 200 requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, requires ID at the polls, and requires proof of eligibility and legal presence in the U.S. to obtain public benefits. Prop 200, along with the rest of these measures, passed overwhelmingly at the polls.
In 2011 with a huge state’s rights victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on Pearce’s Employer Sanctions legislation called Arizona’s “Fair and Legal Employment Act.”
Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting
The Court said: “Our precedents ‘establish that a high threshold must be met if a state law is to be pre-empted for conflicting with the purposes of a federal Act.’ That threshold is not met here.”
The Court also rejected the Chamber’s (ridiculous) argument that Arizona’s law would be too effective in promoting law enforcement, by imposing too large a penalty. The Court said: “Of course Arizona hopes that its law will result in more effective enforcement of the prohibition on employing unauthorized aliens. But in preserving to the States the authority to impose sanctions through licensing laws, Congress did not intend to preserve only those state laws that would have no effect.”Arizona’s “Fair and Legal Employment Act” will prove to be one the most effective and non-discriminatory laws enacted anywhere in the United States. It will truly prevent illegal aliens from obtaining permanent employment in this state and will serve as an example of real comprehensive immigration reform for the rest of our nation.
The disinformation campaign on HB2779 would have made a Soviet propagandist proud.
The politicking regarding Arizona's worksite enforcement law is at a full swing, it is creating real concern with the illegal employers, ACLU and the open border crowd.
In his decision to refuse to block HB2779 Judge Wake said, "Those who suffer the most from unauthorized alien labor are those whom federal and Arizona law most explicitly protect. They are the competing lawful workers, many unskilled, low-wage, sometimes near or under the margin of poverty, who strain in individual competition and in a wage economy depressed by the great and expanding number of people who will work for less.
Most controversially, Pearce authored SB1070 otherwise known as “Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act” which, at the time it was passed, was the broadest and strictest act against illegal immigration in the country. Since then, several states have followed. SB 1070 requires the police to check the immigration status of an individual whom has already been stopped for another reason, if the officer has reason to believe that person is not in the country legally. It contained specific language prohibiting racial profiling. Some felt this was targeting Hispanics, but Pearce’s motives were once again focused on the interest of Arizona and enforcement of the nation’s border. Pearce remarked, “We must have the courage – the fortitude – to enforce, with compassion but without apology, those laws that protect the integrity of our border and the rights of our lawful citizens.”
Pearce’s intentions as a politician and throughout his over forty years in public service have always been to be “fair, honest, efficient, effective, innovative, passionate, assertive and loyal to the citizens and taxpayers [he] serves.” Pearce’s colleagues regard him highly. Roc Arnett, president of East Valley Partnership, says “[Pearce] is very dogmatic, he’s very driven with what he is doing.” Tom Freestone, a veteran Valley politician, finds Pearce to be “very thorough, very well-studied” and “one of the best presenters [he] has ever seen.” Furthermore, Freestone believes Pearce “is very respectful, even if he disagreed” and always “true to form.”
Today, Pearce currently continues his public service in the Senate where he was elected by his peers to serve as President of the Senate. He and his wife LuAnne have five children and fourteen grandchildren. Three of his grandchildren, under the age of five live with him and his wife LuAnne in their 1100 square foot home in Mesa. Every morning he wakes up to the sounds of his three grandchildren and describes the comfort he feels when his littlest grandchild, Tatum, six months old, smiles at him.
Two of Pearce’s sons have followed in his footsteps as law enforcement officers. Colten is with the Gilbert P.D. and Sean works with the Maricopa Country Sheriff’s Office. Like his father, Sean has also been awarded the Medal of Valor for bravery. Sean was critically shot during a gun battle involving an illegal alien wanted on homicide charges.
With over 40 years of service to the state of Arizona, Senator Pearce continues to add to his legacy and record of “standing up for the Tax Payer, Families and Efficient Government” and for having the courage to take on the tough issues. Pearce is known for his love of this Republic, the Founding Principles and recognizes God’s hand in the Making of America.