I don’t know how many other people got a Facebook message from Jerry Lewis, a candidate for the state Senate from Mesa’s Legislative District 18 that is currently held by Russell Pearce who has been recalled.
Lewis’ message was straight forward: Stop by my house on Saturday morning for a donut and help me kickoff my campaign.
That was it, an open invitation to those interested in Lewis’ candidacy and his goal to represent Mesa in the Legislature.
When I arrived at Lewis' house in west Mesa it was already hot and there was a crowd of 35 or 40 people in the driveway. Lewis, dressed in Dockers and long-sleeved white shirt, was meeting, greeting and answering questions. I watched the interaction between Lewis and the crowd.
It was obvious he was as interested in them as they were in him. Lewis showed great respect to those who questioned him and who’d come by for a donut in the morning sun.
Lewis fielded their questions and from what I could hear he answered their individual questions with specific answers and not the typical political mealy-mouthed response where candidates and elected officials answer the question they wish they were asked and not the one that was asked.
I thought to myself what a contrast to Pearce who often dresses for the crowds in his trademark American flag shirt and big belt buckle and whose thundering voice machine-guns responses to questions that sooner or later involve Constitutional quotes and putting blame for all of Arizona’s ills on one group or another but never the Legislature that Pearce has bulldogged for the last 11 years.
I found it interesting that while Lewis used Facebook to let the regular folks know about his gathering, Pearce hooked up with a group of powerful Phoenix lobbyists who represent labor unions, insurance companies, gambling, and the liquor industry and who are planning a bash to raise funds for Pearce and the Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall. I doubt seriously if Pearce’s soiree will be held in the driveway of his Mesa home and donuts will be served for refreshments.
Last January, Pearce attended a fundraiser held in his honor with over 70 hosts, mostly lobbyists, at a multi-million dollar mansion in Paradise Valley.
The wealthy and powerful who call Paradise Valley home are a world away from the people who live in Mesa’s LD18.
Pearce has been linked to former Fiesta Bowl lobbyist Gary Husk who is reportedly under investigation for his Bowl-related activities. Pearce reportedly received nearly $40,000 in perks from the Fiesta Bowl that included first class travel, five star hotel stays and highly sought after tickets to some of the most high powered collegiate football games in the country.
Lewis told me the last football game he went to was at Mesa’s Westwood High School.
Lewis, a 30-year Mesa resident and certified public accountant, is an assistant schools superintendent for a statewide non-profit charter school system. He’s served as a Bishop and Stake President in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and was the Vice President of the Grand Canyon Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Pearce, a Mesa native, is a retired Maricopa County deputy sheriff who served as chief deputy under Joe Arpaio. He’s been in the Legislature 11 years. He’s also LDS. In 1999 Pearce was reportedly fired from his position as director of Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division after “tampering with the driving records of a woman who was convicted of driving under the influence twice within 10 months.” Politics became his next career.
Both are Republicans and very different individuals.
Come November Mesa LD18 voters will pick a state senator. With candidates Lewis and Pearce they’ll have two distinct and different candidates to pick from.
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org