Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Have run-ins with Washington cost him votes at home?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has always won election easily in Arizona's Maricopa County. But this year, after dabbling in birther politics and being sued for alleged racial profiling, he is running hard.
(Page 2 of 2)
"He's just completely made that office a joke," adds Mr. Sierra, a Republican who has joined forces with Democrats and independents to target Arpaio.Skip to next paragraph
The group recently launched a series of TV and radio ads that portray the sheriff in a negative light and encourage voters to cast a ballot for his main rival, Paul Penzone.
Mike Stauffer is in the race as an independent candidate, but it is Penzone, an articulate, retired police officer in his mid-40s, who has secured the endorsement of various Latino groups that Arpaio has alienated.
The sheriff won't give either of his opponents the time of day, let alone participate in a debate.
"Everybody knows around the world what I do, so there's nothing to debate about," he says.
That attitude riles his critics.
"This is the man with the largest budget in the county that will not debate because he's afraid, he's running from his record," says Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona.
Energized by its successful push last year to recall former state Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican architect of SB 1070, Mr. Parraz's group has since worked to unseat the sheriff.
But just as Parraz, politicos, activists, and Latino organizations turn up the heat, plenty of GOP faithful still back Arpaio. Polls by the two parties –there are no independent polling numbers for the sheriff’s race – show him still in the lead, and supporters have made his campaign the most well-funded, with more than $8 million in contributions, mostly from out of state.
The support Arpaio still enjoys – including that of a faded Hollywood star – was evident at an event last weekend in the east Phoenix suburb of Mesa.
"Joe Arpaio is one of the last American heroes who not only enforces the laws that he's supposed to enforce, but he's not afraid to stand up for what he believes in," actor Steven Seagal, who has participated in the sheriff's immigration raids, told an effusive crowd.
In an area that leans Republican, those attending the event were firmly planted in the sheriff's corner. Many held signs that read, "Fire Obama."
To Steve Han, the negative ads and allegations swirling around Arpaio are nothing but political slander in an election year. He doesn't believe a word.
Arpaio is doing an all-around competent job and deserves to stay in office, Mr. Han adds.
"If things are going the way they're supposed to be going,” he says, “and the job is getting done by someone with experience, there's no reason to change."
IN PICTURES: US immigration debate
Making a Difference