The recall movement was galvanized mainly by Pearce's role as chief architect of a state law that required police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain and suspect is in the country illegally.
Enactment of the measure, signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2010, ignited a furor among Latino and civil rights activists, including calls for an economic boycott of Arizona, and sparked a court challenge by the Obama administration.
A federal judge has thrown out key provisions of the law, including the mandate for police checks of immigration status, and the case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pearce waged an all-out battle to retain his seat in a heavily Republican district of about 70,000 registered voters.
The 64-year-old politician, first elected to the state legislature in 2000, vehemently defended his get-tough stance on illegal immigrants flowing across the U.S.-Mexico border, a phenomenon he called "a national crisis."
Nonetheless, the defeat of Pearce was perhaps an issue more of style than substance. Jerry Lewis (no, not the comedian) who defeated him, is also a Republican and a Mormon and is generally anti-immigrant. But, he was adamant that a more civil tone was necessary on the issue and it seems that the majority of voters in the heavily Republican legislative district agreed with him. NPR's "All Things Considered" has a nice summary of the election.