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Q&A: Jerry Lewis on state Senate race

Republican Jerry Lewis discusses running for State Senate in the 26th Legislative District.

Jerry Lewis
Republican Jerry Lewis is running for State Senate of District 26. (Photo by Shawn Raymundo)

Name: Jerry Lewis

Party: Republican

Running for: State Senate, 26th Legislative District

Previous Experience: Served as senator for the 18th Legislative District after beating Russell Pearce in 2011’s recall election

State Press: What made you decide to run for the State Senate?

Jerry Lewis: I had some good friends that encouraged me last year to run against Russell Pearce in the recall and my first response was, "I don't want anything to do with a recall, sorry." So after a lot of consideration my wife and I said, "No thanks." And they said this isn't really actually a recall, he's going to put his name in to be a replacement for Jeff Flake and be running for the state senate seat and the representative's office will open itself up and he probably won't be running for that office. So four months later, after it was decided that they had the signatures and an election was going to happen the same guys came back to me again and said, "Hey, would you reconsider?"

So, I spent another week, week and a half reconsidering it, gave it a very serious amount of prayer and consideration and talked to a lot of different people in our lives, family and whatnot and we decided that this is a duty. We vote, we're somewhat educated on the issues, we have a duty here. Plus, I was very disillusioned by the reputation the state of Arizona and the city of Mesa were getting with the type of politics being promulgated by my opponent. If anything, I wanted people to realize that not all Mesans are like this, not all Arizonans are like this, and there are other people that we can satisfy or solve public issues civilly, and try to understand them rather than control them. So here's where we are.

SP: Much of this district is affiliated with ASU in some way. What is your opinion on the guns on campus bills that have been introduced during the last few sessions of the legislature?

JL: Definitely against it, and I got a letter from Dr. Crow thanking me for being against it. A few of us prevented it from going to the floor. We just said, you know, this is not the place. We're all for the second amendment, but there are some places you just have to keep sacred and a learning institution is one of those places. We don't want teachers or students or little kids that come on campus here for tours or whatever they're here for to feel any kind of jeopardy. When the police chief here of the university police says we can handle it, we've got plans, we've got to trust them. There are certain places that should just remain gun-free.

SP:What are your thoughts on the Supreme Court ruling that was handed down Monday on SB 1070?

JL: It was a clear indication that we can do a whole lot better. Everyone's claiming victory, but there is no victory until we can keep our borders secure, keep our families secure and develop a program that helps people work, and demonstrate the love of humanity that we have for all people, regardless of their color. Until that happens, we have no victory, so I really believe we should have other, more important things to work on. What the continuous argument over this has done is taken our sights from th economy, job creation and education, which are issues that are much more important to allpeoplein Arizona, regardless of their age, regardless of their immigration status, regardless of their occupation.

We need to solve the problem, and I love what the Supreme Court said, the idea that this is a federal issue. States have rights to enforce laws as long as they don't encroach on federal laws, and that is a clear victory for states. However, we keep hashing over these old things, and we're no better off than we were ten years ago. We've got to understand that we have problems, there are people who come from whatever country and come illegally, but instead of continuing to politicize a very serious issue and instead of continuing to politicize human beings, we need to put aside all the rhetoric and have, as the Supreme Court suggested, a civic discourse that will satisfy at least 80-90 percent of the people.

SP: What would you do to help keep college and other education affordable?

JL: Well, one of the things we were able to do was fix some of the parity funding. But we also need to be able to make sure universities are fiscally responsible. We can't support them at the cost of everyone else in the state, like the very important life-sustaining types of issues. We have to be careful that we guard our budget wisely, that we don't overextend ourselves and we keep ourselves solvent so that we can address, to whatever extent possible, affordable education for all people.

SP: We've seen quite a few bills this legislative session focusing on reproductive issues. What's your take on those?

JL: It's none of government's business. The government should stay out of our pocketbooks and out of our bedrooms. And the decision to have children or not to have children is a very sacred decision that a woman, and if she's married, her husband, should very carefully consider and plan accordingly. I don't want to get into the practice of telling them what they can and can't do. It's their own choice, and I don't want to infringe on that. I want to stay out of that kind of a debate, period.

SP: What do you think some of your biggest challenges will be, both throughout the rest of the campaign and if you are elected?

JL: We need to elevate our educational potential. We need to help each child – each student in K-12, each college student, reach their educational potential. We have to find the right direction, so that we’re creating jobs, that we’re creating good jobs, that we attract the type of people who can command those jobs, that we’re providing good education for those types of jobs so that we can achieve all of our dreams and wishes in this great state of Arizona.

Reach the reporter at or follow @JMShumway on Twitter.

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