Arizona Republican Official Resigns After Remarks About Medicaid Recipients

Jennifer Madina, New York Times, September 16, 2014

The former Arizona lawmaker who sponsored the state’s stringent anti-immigration law resigned as a top state Republican official late Sunday amid criticism for remarks he made supporting mandatory birth control or sterilization for Medicaid recipients.

Russell Pearce, a former state senator, stepped down as the party’s first vice chairman late Sunday, after several fellow Republicans running for statewide office denounced his comments and a Republican congressional candidate called for his resignation.

During a discussion on Sept. 6 on his radio show about the state’s public assistance programs, Mr. Pearce said: “You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations.”

He continued, “Then we’ll test for drugs and alcohol,” before adding that those who want more children should “then get a job.”

In a statement released by the Arizona Republican Party, Mr. Pearce said the comments were written by someone else and that he had “failed to attribute them to the author.” He said that he was stepping down to avoid a distraction before the November elections, when Arizona voters will elect a new governor.

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On Sunday, Republican candidates stepped forward one after another to denounce Mr. Pearce. Doug Ducey, Arizona’s state treasurer and Republican candidate for governor, said on Twitter: “I couldn’t disagree more with Russell Pearce’s deplorable comments. They have no place in our discourse.” Mark Brnovich, a Republican running for attorney general, released a statement saying the comments were “cruel” and “unrepresentative of the Republican Party I know.”

Michele Reagan, a Republican state senator running for Arizona secretary of state, posted a message on Twitter on Sunday night calling for Mr. Pearce to resign, saying that his “obnoxious comments” were “both disgusting and offensive” and adding, “Let it be known, he is NOT the voice of my G.O.P.”

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Although Mr. Pearce was not a candidate for office this November, in 2010, as the president of the State Senate, he was the lead sponsor of Arizona’s “show me your papers” law that demanded that immigrants carry documentation at all times. He lost a recall election in 2011 and another bid for office in 2012, before being appointed as the state party’s second in command.

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