Former mayor Beydler: Recall undermines democratic process - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Former mayor Beydler: Recall undermines democratic process

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Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 4:42 pm, Thu Jan 26, 2012.

Jon Beydler is the political polar opposite of Russell Pearce, making him the unlikeliest of people to express disdain that Arizona's Senate President must defend his seat in a recall election.

Beydler, a former Fountain Hills mayor and staunch liberal, thinks that the Nov. 8 recall election will be "a costly, time-consuming, emotional drain" on Pearce, a Republican, and voters in District 18.

"I never heard a single word that Russell Pearce said or a single legislative initiative that he's been behind that I agree with, but that's not the point," Beydler said. "The point is that I believe the recall process undermines the entire democratic process. If you ignore left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, the facts are that a minority of people in a district can undermine the will of the voters and force a new election."

Those sentiments come from personal experience for Beydler, an East Valley Tribune contributing columnist. In 2003 - a year after his election as mayor of Fountain Hills - he was removed via a recall election. While that ouster stung, he said, it is not the primary motivation for his anti-recall stance.

"I think this is symptomatic of dysfunction in our politics," said Beydler, who now lives in Chandler.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states and the District of Columbia permit the recall of elected officials.

The highest-profile recall election in recent years was in California in 2003. Then-governor Gray Davis was removed from office, and the ballot for his replacement had 135 candidates, including ex-child actor Gary Coleman, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and porn star Mary Carey.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had no previous elected-office experience, earned the most votes (4.2 million) and served eight years as governor.

In Wisconsin, nine state senators are up for recall, and Gov. Scott Walker is also being targeted. A recall attempt of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is in the petition process.

Walker and Snyder were elected last November.

"Normally, recall is kept for high crimes and misdemeanors, something horrendous," Beydler said. "People who oppose Pearce's views might see him as a bad person, but all that is in the eye of the beholder. It's a partisan issue, and that's part of the problem ...

"I mean, how many do-overs should we get? People should live with their choice, especially right after an election."

A total of 10,365 valid signatures were certified by state election officials in the Pearce recall effort; 7,756 were needed. Pearce received 17,552 votes in last November's election to Democrat Andrew Sherwood's 10,663.

There is no formally-announced opposition for Pearce. On Friday, Jerry Lewis, assistant superintendent for Sequoia Schools, a Mesa-based charter school chain, said that he would announce his intentions in the coming days.

During the Fountain Hills recall process, Beydler said, his biggest mistake was not campaigning from the start.

"I didn't think it was legitimate," Beydler said. "I saw no cause to run again for office after I'd just won. I was trying to do my job. I ignored the process, I ignored the opponent. I refused to campaign because I thought it was a matter of principle.

"Trust me: Once the election is scheduled, all that goes out the window, and it's like a brand-new campaign."

Beydler did not realize that until it was too late. He said Pearce had better not make the same mistake.

"I know he likes to portray an image of bravado," Beydler said. "But if he belittles the process and belittles his challengers, that's a grave error.

"A very empowered minority can overcome the wishes of the majority easily. I imagine that there will be a lot more people energized to take him out than leave him in. That's typically the way it works."

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