Candidates, voters prepare for historic recall election

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MESA, Ariz.--All eyes are on East Mesa where State Senate President Russell Pearce faces what could be the toughest re-election fight of his political career.

A recent poll by the Arizona Capitol Times and KNXV put Pearce and challenger Jerry Lewis in a near dead heat in the Legislative District 18 recall election.

Both candidates spent the weekend canvassing the district in an effort to secure as many votes as possible.

Months ago, political insiders said Pearce, the architect of anti-illegal immigrant law SB 1070, was untouchable.

But then fellow legislators rejected his package of additional immigration legislation this year, and reports revealed he'd accepted free trips from the Fiesta Bowl.

Lewis, a political newcomer who is also a Republican and Mormon, announced his run late this summer.

The race has not been free of scandal.

A third candidate, Olivia Cortes, dropped out of the race last month after a court hearing revealed her candidacy was bolstered entirely by Pearce supporters in an attempt to siphon votes away from Lewis.

Cortes, dubbed a "sham candidate" is no longer a candidate, but her name remains on the ballot and she is expected to win a small percentage of the vote.

Over the weekend, residents in the district began getting robo-calls telling them to reject Pearce and Lewis.

In the call, a man with a Hispanic accent says: "Voters beware. If you plan to vote this Tuesday, you should know that both candidates for State Senator, Russell Pearce and Jerry Lewis, are Republicans. The only other candidate, Olivia Cortes was forced to withdraw last month. You can protest this one-sided election by writing in your own candidate."

No write-in candidates have registered in the race, so any write-in votes will not count.

The ad is paid for by the group Safeguard Arizona's Future. The chairman, Ronald Ludders, is listed as a "Friend of Russell Pearce" on the Pearce campaign website.

Ludders told 3TV he does not support either candidate because he lives outside of LD 18 and said the calls were meant to be "educational."

As of Monday night the Maricopa County recorders office said more than 14,500 early ballots had been returned. That's more than half of the number mailed out.