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Former state Sen. Russell Pearce was elected first vice chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, the second-highest party position, on Jan. 28 in Phoenix.

Known nationally for his immigration policies, Pearce will be an asset to the Arizona Republican Party, said spokesman Shane Wikfors.

"(Pearce) will be effective because of his ties, not just at the local level but at the national level, to individuals and organizations that have been effective in the fundraising world," Wikfors said.

Pearce is recognized as the sponsor of Senate Bill 1070, a piece of controversial immigration legislation passed in May 2010 that gained national attention. He was ousted from the Arizona State Senate in a recall election in November.

"If you go anywhere out of state you'll typically hear three names mentioned more than any other name … Governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Russell Pearce," Wikfors said. "He brings that to the table with regard to our efforts to have success in 2012 and we look forward to having him as part of the team."

Though Pearce is well-received by Republicans, his public policy positions from his time in the legislature have earned him political opponents, Wikfors said.

"It's easy to see how Russell's ascension to a party position has drawn out criticism and fire against him by the same people that were critical of him as an effective legislator," he said.

Most of these opponents tend to "run on the left" and tend to be "more pro-amnesty," Wikfors said.

Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Andy Barr said Pearce’s new position would do little for the Republicans.

"My sense is that it's going to limit their ability to reach out beyond the people who really represent the kind of the extremist policy they want to implement," Barr said.

Though the position does not make Pearce responsibility for public policy development, he will be responsible for the party's strategy, business and operation, Wikfors said.

"I think he's an effective spokesperson when it comes to issues surrounding the role of government and constitutional ideas and processes," he said. "There is a hunger for that amongst Republicans."

Ashley Allen, president of ASU's College Republicans, said the connections developed between Pearce and legislators will be important to his new party position.

“Pearce, as a state senator, made connections with lawmakers that could help the party influence future legislation,” Allen said.


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