Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto


Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→


Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Recent Media

Arizona state senator Russell Pearce holds the dubious honor of being the first elected official to face a recall election.[1]  The movement to recall Pearce, the author of SB 1070, has been gaining traction among a motley crew of chamber of commerce Republicans, Latinos, and Mormons (AZ Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows).  Together, this coalition has money, manpower, and motivation.  At first sight it seems like the recall actually has a shot at bringing down Pearce.  However, the likelihood of unseating Pearce is small.  All politics is local and it does not matter how many Arizonans want Pearce to go, what matters is Pearce’s strong base within his district and the oodles of cash he will have to remind District 18 voters that he’s their guy.

West Mesa is a solidly middle class area with a mix of blue collar and managerial folks.  The average income of a resident of District 18 is $16,000 and the average geographical landmark is the strip mall.  West Mesa is the American prototype of cities hardest hit by the recession.  The residents of Pearce’s district are far from wealthy.  Among these residents concerns of unemployment or underemployment are real.  In other words, West Mesa residents are those most likely to feel economically insecure and threatened by the perception that immigrants are taking their jobs and their services.

Pearce has been able to tap into feelings of economic vulnerability and develop an anti-immigrant agenda.  Throughout history, anti-immigrant sentiment has taken root in hard economic times and among the economically insecure.  One hundred years ago, Italians, Irish, and Polish where seen as immigrant threats.  Today it is Latinos.  Pearce has not invented the anti-immigrant wheel, he has simply reinvented it to target the newest cohort of immigrants.

In the 2010 election Pearce garnered 17,552 votes.  He received over 4,000 more votes than his two challengers combined.  His winning margin from this past election also superceded his margin from his first senate election in 2008.  Pearce was not only re-elected, he was re-elected with stronger support.  The likelihood of that support not only eroding, but reversing in less than a year’s time is highly unlikely.

In order for Pearce to be recalled there must be another person on the ballot.  The election will be non-partisan and as many challengers as are eligible can appear on the ballot.  The candidate to receive the most votes wins.  So far there is one candidate who has announced.  However, there will likely be a number of other contenders who will not want to pass up the chance (though remote) of becoming District 18’s state senator.  The logistics of the recall further strengthen the sitting senator’s chances of staying in office.

Elected officials have stuck by Russell Pearce.  Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer has vocally come out attacking the recall and asserting her support of Pearce.  Support among many legislators is equally as strong.  In the 2010 election Pearce supported a block of legislative candidates.  Now it is time to return the favor.  While not all politicos are Pearce supporters, those who are not are weary to speak up.  Pearce’s bombastic media persona is the same within the halls of power.  More importantly, Pearce is seen as not playing nice once he is crossed.  As the president of the state senate, Pearce can inflict a lot of pain on his subordinates and that is likely no a risk junior legislators are willing to take by supporting the recall.

Money does not win elections.  However, when the candidate has electoral and elite support in addition to being an effective campaigner money makes it all come together.  This recall will be a money making miracle for Pearce.  The recall is allowing him to build his $45,000 war chest.  Pearce is able to frame himself as the victim of special interests and generate support among anti-immigrant advocates from across the country. Just this month Tom Tancredo established the Team America PAC for him.

All politics is local and the fate of Senator Pearce is no different.  Pearce may be disliked far and wide, but he has consistently garnered the support of his West Mesa district.  It is these folks who matter.  It also does not hurt that Pearce has support from fellow elected officials and solid financial support.  In the end, the recall may well do more harm than good by entrenching Pearce and leaving him with filled coffers for his next election in 2012.


[1] Pearce supporters have asked a Maricopa County judge to throw out the petitions and nullify the recall.  The hearing is set for August 8.  The likelihood of the recall being thrown out is very small, based on the signatures having already been validated.