“Sheriff Joe” – the lawman in charge of Maricopa County in Arizona – has made a name for himself with his tough stance on illegal immigration. He’s even been sued over it – by both Latinos, who say he racially profiles them, and the Department of Justice.Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s views are being put to the test on Nov. 6 in a three-way election that has mobilized many Latinos who oppose his approach.
Republican Arpaio, a former agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, faces Mike Stauffer, an independent who has held several jobs on police forces, as well as Paul Penzone, a Democrat and former Phoenix narcotics cop.
Grassroots groups have sprung up with names such as joesgottago.com and adiosarpaio.com, the latter of which features teens too young to vote whose families have suffered deportations under Arpaio’s policies, according to the New York Times. Adios Arpaio supports Penzone.
The challengers face Sheriff Joe’s considerable bank account, 20-year incumbency and support from conservatives across the country. But Arpaio has suffered a few very public set-backs, including the civil rights lawsuits, which are still pending.
In the mean time, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals refused on Sept. 25 to reverse a lower court’s injunction in place to stop his force from detaining people suspected of being illegal immigrants. A trial court has yet to rule on whether his polices amount to racial profiling.
Could Arizona Shift from Red to Blue?
Latino groups are not waiting around to find out – they want him gone and have helped to register over 34,000 voters in the last six months, according to the Times.
The office of Maricopa County Sheriff will thus be a hotly contested spot on Nov. 6, experts say. The Times quotes Bruce Merrill, a senior researcher at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, who says both the sheriff’s race and the contest for one of Arizona’s U.S. Senate spots will increase Latino voter turnout.
According to an August 2012 report by the Morrison Institute, Arizona’s political landscape is forecast to change “due to the younger Latino population coming of voter age.” The report predicts that “with Latinos largely voting Democratic, Arizona could possibly change from a ‘red state’ to a ‘blue state’ by 2030.”
Top Story to Watch
The National Journal, a non-partisan Washington, DC-based policy magazine, rated the Maricopa County Sheriff’s race number four on its list of “the 10 biggest legal stories to watch on election night.”
While the magazine says Arpaio is “heading toward another reelection victory,” that’s “despite a series of recent political scandals, costly litigation and allegations of fiscal mismanagement.” The National Journal quotes Mother Jones writer Timothy Murphy, who notes that Arpaio has conducted his campaign in a way that might put him in danger of losing.
“Occasionally absent, punctuated by frenzied bursts of activity, and [with] an enormous appetite for spending money,” says Murphy, Arpaio has “refused Penzone’s offer to debate” and run a shoddy campaign. His website features a phone number that actually goes to an insurance company, and it is run by a consulting company that Arpaio has paid $1.8 million over the last year.
That stands in stark contrast to the groundswell of popular support that Penzone seems to have stumbled into. And that could make for some dramatic election day action on Nov. 6 in Arizona.
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