Arizona GOP replaces Pearce as top leader

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Republican Party has named a replacement for former Sen. Russell Pearce, who resigned his top party post following a backlash to his remarks advocating mandatory contraception or sterilization for people on Medicaid and tighter restrictions on how people on public assistance use the funds.

Party chairman Robert Graham announced Tuesday that he named longtime Tucson party activist Parralee Schneider as vice chair to replace Pearce. Graham named Phoenix resident Jeni White to replace Schneider as second vice chair.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to push for Pearce to be fired from his recently-landed job as a top manager with the Maricopa County Treasurer. A major part of that job is overseeing a program that helps low-income seniors pay their property taxes.

"He's overseeing a $10 million program that is designed to help low-income elderly folks pay their property tax and here he is now bashing them," Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo said. "If he remains in that position he will cause another flurry I think within the next six weeks as well. He'll do it again - he can't help himself."

Pearce was the chief sponsor of Arizona's tough 2010 law against illegal immigration. He said in a statement issued by the party late Sunday that he was resigning because he didn't want to be a distraction during the upcoming elections. He said the remarks made on his weekly radio address were initially made by someone else and he repeated them without attribution.

"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."

He was criticized for saying on the show that "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."

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.

Democrats want Pearce fired by Treasurer Charles "Hos" Hoskins, who has not responded to repeated requests for comment on Pearce's status or statements.

Hoskins hired Pearce in July to oversee the department's human resources, legislative outreach, budget and senior citizen outreach, the now-underused senior tax reduction program.

"I realize that he is a hot potato, but he's also is a man of integrity and he's honest," Hoskins said then. "And when you're dealing with $10 million in public money, that's the kind of person you want."

Gallardo, who is running for Maricopa County supervisor in a heavily Democratic district, said he's meeting with current supervisors to discuss Pearce's status. Hoskins is elected and controls hiring for his own office, but Gallardo said he believed supervisors still have some oversight.

A group called Citizens for a Better Arizona protested at Hoskins' office on Monday and Tuesday and planned to return Wednesday with a resolution demanding Pearce be fired.

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Russell Pearce resigns GOP spot over Medicaid remarks