This political campaign was likely the last for Joe Arpaio, the former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix known for leading immigration crackdowns.
The 88-year-old lawman narrowly lost a race to win back his old job, his second failed comeback bid four years after getting voted out of office.
Arpaio was edged out Friday in the Republican primary by his former second-in-command, Jerry Sheridan.
Still facing criticism over his 2017 criminal conviction — which President Donald Trump pardoned — many didn’t know he was running until they saw his name on the ballot.
“I think some people were tired of me, and they wanted somebody else,” Arpaio said. “And that’s the way it went.”
A retired federal drug enforcement agent, Arpaio was elected sheriff in 1992 after his predecessor was criticized for mishandling an investigation into the killings of nine people at a Buddhist temple.
Early in his 24-year tenure, Arpaio scored big points with voters by enacting tough jail policies.
He took up immigration enforcement in 2005 as some Republican lawmakers called for a stricter approach. At the time, almost all other local police bosses in the U.S. were content to let federal authorities handle that work.
Arpaio led 20 large-scale traffic patrols and more than 80 business raids to bust illegal immigrants working in the United States without permission.
Critics accused him of irresponsibly spending taxpayer money on policies that were bound to flop.
His defenders said he was the only local police boss who bothered to confront illegal immigration.
Stan Barnes, a political consultant in Phoenix and former Republican state lawmaker, said Arpaio reflected for many years what a majority of voters in metro Phoenix wanted from a sheriff — immigration crackdowns and tough jails.
Arpaio’s political fortunes started to decline in 2013 when his officers were found by a judge to have racially profiled Latinos in immigration patrols.
Arpaio was eventually convicted of criminal contempt of court for disobeying a court order in the profiling case, though he was later spared a possible jail sentence by Trump’s pardon.
As voter frustration mounted over his legal troubles, Arpaio lost his bid for a seventh term by nearly 13 percentage points to retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone.
Arpaio’s first comeback bid ended badly when he placed third in the 2018 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, losing both Maricopa County and his adopted hometown of Fountain Hills.
His campaign this year to win back the sheriff’s office was fraught with difficulty.
Arpaio, once a master at garnering publicity, couldn’t get much news coverage. His $1.2 million in contributions led all other sheriff’s candidates, but it was a steep drop from the $12 million he raised in 2016.
He also faced questions about his age and health.
“It may be my last run for office, but I’m going to be active,” Arpaio said, noting he has a new book coming out in a few weeks.
“But if you think I am going home to stare at the mountain, that ain’t gonna happen. Never gonna happen.”
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