Russell Pearce resigns GOP spot over Medicaid remarks

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Former Arizona legislator Russell Pearce, the chief sponsor of Arizona's hard-line law against illegal immigration, has resigned a top leadership position in the state Republican Party after he was criticized for remarks advocating mandatory contraception or sterilization of people on Medicaid.

The party late Sunday night announced Pearce's resignation as first vice chairman - the state party's second top leadership post - after some Republican candidates denounced the comments that Pearce recently made while hosting a radio program.

Pearce said in a statement released by the party that he was resigning his position because he didn't want to be a distraction during the campaign leading up to November's elections.

He was criticized for saying: "You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is give a woman Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations, then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol and nicotine. If you want to (re-)produce or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."

Pearce said in his statement that he had "shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author."

"This was a mistake," Pearce added in the statement. "This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates."

Pearce made the comments on his weekly radio show, and they were part of a discussion on social welfare programs, including housing assistance and food stamps.

He also advocated for food stamps to only be used for bulk food purchases, such as beans and rice, and said people in government housing should be subject to unannounced inspections, personal property inventories and upkeep rules.

"I could go on and on - we're out of control," Pearce said. "And I know there's people out there that need help, and my heart goes out to `em, too. But you know what, that should never be a government role - that's a role for family, church and community."

Democratic Party Executive Director D.J. Quinlan on Saturday had highlighted Pearce's comments and pressed Republican candidates to denounce them.

Mark Brnovich, the Republican nominee for attorney general, on Sunday said Pearce's comments were counter to individual liberties and a free country.

"Comments that demean the plight of the poor, including women in the dual role of mother and economic provider, are not conservative; they're cruel. And I reject them," Brnovich said.

Pearce left the Legislature - where he was serving as Senate president and championed the tough immigration law known as Senate Bill 1070 - after losing a 2011 recall election. He failed in a comeback attempt in the 2012 primary election.

In July, he was hired by Maricopa County Treasurer Charles "Hos" Hoskins to oversee the department's human resources, legislative outreach, budget and senior citizen outreach. That senior outreach program is designed for low-income Arizonans, a fact that wasn't lost on longtime Pearce critic Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, who called on him to resign.

"Russell Pearce's recent comments about women and other members of our community who receive government assistance were disgustingly intolerant and hateful," Gallardo said in a statement. "He has no business overseeing a program tasked with assisting low-income citizens after he so clearly demonstrated his utter contempt for the people he's paid by taxpayers to serve."

Neither Pearce nor Hoskins immediately returned calls seeking comment Monday.

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Arizona GOP official resigns over Medicaid remarks

PHOENIX (AP) -- Former Arizona legislator Russell Pearce, the chief sponsor of Arizona's hard-line law against illegal immigration, has resigned a top leadership position in the state Republican Party after he was criticized for remarks advocating mandatory contraception or sterilization for people on Medicaid.

The party late Sunday night announced Pearce's resignation as first vice chairman - the state party's second top leadership post - after some Republican candidates denounced the comments that Pearce recently made while hosting a radio program.

Pearce said in a statement released by the party that he was resigning his position because he didn't want to be a distraction during the campaign leading up to November's elections.

He was criticized for saying: "You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligation."

But Pearce said in his statement that he had "shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author."

"This was a mistake," Pearce added in the statement. "This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates."

Democratic Party Executive Director D.J. Quinlan on Saturday had highlighted Pearce's comments and pressed Republican candidates to denounce them.

Mark Brnovich, the Republican nominee for attorney general, on Sunday said Pearce's comments were counter to individual liberties and a free country.

"Comments that demean the plight of the poor, including women in the dual role of mother and economic provider, are not conservative; they're cruel. And I reject them," Brnovich said.

Pearce left the Legislature - where he was serving as Senate president and championed the tough immigration law known as Senate Bill 1070 - after losing a 2011 recall election. He failed in a comeback attempt in the 2012 primary election.

 
Pearce's resignation letter

"I love this great Republic, and have loved serving Arizona and my service with the Republican party. Recently on my radio show there was a discussion about the abuses to our welfare system. I shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author. This was a mistake. This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates. For that reason, I am submitting my resignation as a Vice Chairman of the Republican party. I have no intention of being used as a distraction by the Democrats looking to escape responsibility for their failed policies. It is time to return the focus to where it belongs, and that is the direction that our state and country should be headed towards. Let's get back to winning in November!"