Just as Congressional elections and state measures are creating electoral buzz beyond the race for president between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the campaign to oust notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is garnering attention beyond Arizona thanks in part to grassroots campaigns focused on getting out the vote and getting Arpaio out.
These mobilizations within the state seem more about campaigning against Arpaio than in favor of any candidate including his main opponent Paul Penzone. Adios Arpaio by The Campaign for Arizona’s Future, focuses on the Sheriff’s 20 year history of targeting Latino communities in the name of immigration enforcement. Empowered and emboldened by federal policies that connect local law enforcement to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they connect Arpaio to anti-immigrant legislation like S.B. 1070. Through voter registration, mostly done by high school volunteers who cannot vote themselves, Adios Arpaio is deputizing it’s own force to deny 80 year old Sheriff Joe a sixth term . The organization, which has officially endorsed Penzone, has registered over tens of thousands of voters and is hoping to get all of those new voters to the polls to help oust the Republican lawman.
Democrat Paul Penzone is a veteran Phoenix police officer whose campaign site promises to make Maricopa County the Safest Community in America if he replaces “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” Penzone has “cracking down on illegal immigration” as one of his primary issues, although it is listed below enforcing laws against animal abuse. Penzone approaches immigration by saying he wants to go after the alleged source of undocumented immigration, drug importation and human trafficking. There is no mention of going after undocumented communities, no mention of enforcement through attrition directly. The closest is a promise to work with businesses to reduce the demand for undocumented labor. Interesting enough, Penzone’s website is only partially translated into Spanish. The section on the issues forming the backbone of his campaign is only available in English.
Joe’s Got to Go run by Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability advocates for voting against Arpaio by pointing out civil rights violations that have earned him a number of investigations and federal lawsuits. They don’t actually endorse any candidate but rather point to how Arpaio’s policing has actually failed to go after certain crimes, especially sex crimes, and accused Arpaio’s tactics of costing the county two hundred and fifty million dollars. Established in part by former candidate for senate, Democrat Randy Parraz, the organization also points out Arpaio’s ties to extreme conservative movements including birthers and tea partiers.
A third independent candidate is also in the running against Arpaio, Mike Stauffer, a former Republican. It’s unlikely that Stauffer will win but he has promised to shut down the infamous Tent City and stop the use of humiliation tactic on inmates such as pink underwear if elected. Stauffer has promised to enforce S.B.1070 but not by violating the constitution but sounds like Arpaio and other Republicans with calls for beefed up border security and fostering interagency cooperation on the local, state, and federal level to combat the state’s “illegal immigration problem”.
In the meantime, Arpaio has been pushing back by pulling out whatever dirty laundry he can on his opposition including a domestic violence case between Penzone and his ex-wife. Arpaio’s bid for reelection proudly holds up his record on immigration enforcement and his treatment of prisoners. He seems to be betting that Maricopa County wants more of the same for another four years. Tomorrow voters will decide if they think they will be better off saying adios.