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Arizona state senator recall election can go forward, judge rules

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The judge rejected nearly all arguments alleging problems with the recall petition
  • Senate President Pearce was primary sponsor behind an anti-immigration law

(CNN) -- An Arizona judge ruled Friday that a special election to recall state Senate President Russell Pearce, the primary sponsor behind a controversial anti-illegal immigration law that a federal court struck down in April, can be held November 8 as planned.

In an 11-page ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Hugh E. Hegyi rejected nearly all of the arguments alleging problems with the recall petition.

The suit was filed by Franklin Bruce Ross, who backs Pearce and who alleged problems in the way the recall petitions were filled out. The suit cited as an example the language in the oath sworn by the circulators of the recall petitions did not state that the signatures collected were "genuine" or the "functional equivalent."

But Hegyi concluded that the legislation concerning recall elections does not mandate that the oath contain the word "genuine." "It merely requires 'an' oath that the Petition signatures are genuine, but does not prescribe a specific oath that will accomplish that objective," the judge wrote.

In this case, the requirements of the law -- which he described as constitutional -- have been met, he said.

"Obviously, I'm pleased," said Thomas Ryan of Chandler, Arizona, a lawyer who represented the petition-drive organizers Citizens for a Better Arizona. "It's a big victory for the 10,000-plus people who signed that recall petition to get rid of their senator."

In an e-mail sent to Ryan, Lisa Hauser, the attorney representing Pearce supporter Ross, said she would appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. She did not immediately return a call from CNN seeking comment.

In May, the group Citizens for a Better Arizona submitted petitions to Arizona's secretary of state, defendant Ken Bennett, who certified that they contained 10,296 signatures -- 2,540 more than the required number.

At the time, Pearce did not respond to requests to comment on the recall campaign, but said of his supporters: "I am so grateful that some of my friends have stepped forward to oppose this recall and defend the truth. The personal, hurtful attacks by people who don't even live in Arizona must stop. Working together, we can bring Arizonans together and move our state forward."

His supporters have formed their own group, The Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall.

Pearce, a Republican, sponsored Arizona Senate Bill 1070. The measure would have required local police, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being undocumented. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the measure overstepped Arizona's authority.

Before becoming a state senator in 2001, Pearce spent 23 years as a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy. He is known for his tough stance against illegal immigration and continues to introduce such legislation.

CNN's Mike Martinez contributed to this story.