Russell Pearce, Fiery Foe of Illegal Immigration, Dies at 75

There were times when fellow conservatives said Mr. Pearce had gone too far. In 2014, when he was first vice chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, a post he had held since 2012, he insisted that when he made remarks supporting mandatory birth control or sterilization for Medicaid recipients, he was actually quoting someone else. The comments ultimately led to his resignation.

Russell Keith Pearce, a fifth-generation Arizonan, was born on June 23, 1947, in Mesa to Hal Frost Pearce, an auto mechanic (and, he said, an alcoholic), and Norma Crandell, a musician and homemaker. His parents divorced when he was 13. The family was impoverished, but, he later recalled, his mother refused to accept groceries left by neighbors.

After serving with the National Guard in Arizona during the Vietnam War, Mr. Pearce joined the sheriff’s office, where, in one highly publicized move, he and Sheriff Arpaio proposed that inmates be housed in tents. While working there, he earned a degree in management from the University of Phoenix. He went on to serve as director of the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division.

Elected to Arizona’s House of Representatives in 2000 and the State Senate in 2006, he supported the state’s Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship before Arizonans can register to vote or apply for public benefits.

He tried to mount a political comeback in 2012, seeking another Republican nomination for State Senate, but he lost. He later worked for the Maricopa County treasurer.

In a statement, Mr. Pearce’s family said he “lived a life of service to God, family and country.”

His survivors include his wife, LuAnne; their children, Dodi, Sean, Colten, Justin and Joshua; and three grandchildren.

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.


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