Joe Arpaio is trying to win back the sheriff position in metro Phoenix that he held for 24 years, facing his former second-in-command in the Aug. 4 Republican primary in what has become his second comeback bid.
The 88-year-old lawman was unseated in the 2016 sheriff’s race by a Democratic challenger and placed third in a 2018 U.S. Senate primary.
He has vowed to bring back tactics that his successor has done away with, including immigration crackdowns.
“I’m telling you right now: I am going to do 90 percent of what I did during my 24 years,” Arpaio said. “That’s the way it’s going to be.”
Arpaio and his former second-in-command, Jerry Sheridan, are considered front-runners in the GOP primary.
Glendale officer Mike Crawford and Mesa security guard Lehland Burton are also seeking the Republican nomination.
The winner will face Democrat Paul Penzone, who defeated Arpaio in 2016 and is running unopposed in his primary.
Arpaio and Sheridan were forced out of the agency after being found in civil contempt of court for disobeying a judge’s 2011 order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
Arpaio said he’s out to prove his 2016 defeat was a fluke. But he acknowledges that some voters don’t even know he’s on the ballot this year.
Sheridan, meanwhile, cited his 38 years in law enforcement and insisted that he is his own man.
“I would argue with him when I disagreed with him,” Sheridan said. “A lot of the time he would listen to what I said. Other times he would brush me off. I am not Joe Arpaio.”
Mike O’Neil, a longtime Arizona pollster who has followed Arpaio’s career, said it’s an open question whether primary voters will reject him.
“In a Republican primary, it’s anybody’s guess,” O’Neil said.
Over the last seven years, the sheriff’s office has been undergoing a court-ordered overhaul after a judge ruled sheriff’s deputies had racially profiled Latinos in Arpaio’s immigration patrols.
The civil contempt findings against Arpaio and Sheridan were made in the case.
Arpaio was later convicted of criminal contempt for defying the order, but he was spared a possible jail sentence when Trump pardoned him. Sheridan wasn’t charged with criminal contempt.
Arpaio and Sheridan vigorously dispute the contempt findings. Sheridan said he was unaware of the court order and didn’t run the unit that carried out the immigration patrols.
Arpaio is leading among sheriff’s candidates in fundraising with $1.2 million.
He said he remains mentally sharp and physically healthy. If he were to win and serve the full four years, he would finish that term six months before his 93rd birthday.
He is quick to point out that 77-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden and 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continue to work as they get up in age.
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