• tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits that taxpayers have shelled out for his office's boneheaded and unconstitutional activities, like murdering innocent people in their custody;
• tens of millions of dollars stolen from inmate services to fund his immigration wet dream;
• a department drenched in crime, cronyism, campaign shenanigans, political vendettas, and police state tactics;
• media stunts like a birther investigation, immigration "sweeps," and school posses, at the same time real crime is ignored;
• and, to top it off, a sheriff who's just not good at his job.
Joe Arpaio was re-elected in November for a sixth term, and he has already said he'll run again in 2016, when he'd be 84. For most of his races since 1992, Arpaio has had a smooth ride in conservative Maricopa County. Last year, however, he barely squeaked by with 50.7 percent of the vote; and, as I recently wrote, without Sun City and other predominately white and Republican retirement havens, we wouldn't be suffering through another four years of his blustering, birtherism, bullying, and bullshit.
The group spearheading the recall, Respect Arizona, which filed its paperwork on Wednesday, needs 335,000 signatures to put the question before voters. That part should be a cinch, as there are hordes of people in the county who'd walk barefoot across a 120-degree desert to boot the flaccid fart from office. The challenge will be the next step, the election.
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I'm betting on the recall for a couple reasons: First, some of its leaders are part of the same team that led the successful recall of Sen. Russell Pearce in 2011. When that effort was launched by Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA), Pearce and his GOP hangers-on laughed at the cajones of the unknown group, especially because, at the time, the senator was considered "the most powerful politician in Arizona." A former Arpaio deputy, author of SB 1070, and puller of Gov. Jan Brewer's strings, Russell Pearce was president of the Senate and had won six consecutive races in über-conservative Mesa. In the run-up to the recall election, Pearce's unethical and amateurish campaign staff banked on financial support from nativists nationwide, but they couldn't vote! The senator's team was caught flat-footed by CBA's professional, uncompromising, and very grassroots machine, and he isn't laughing now.
Second, although Arpaio eked out a victory in November, that was also a presidential and congressional year. Arizona Republicans were somewhat energized to turn out for Mitt Romney and Jeff Flake in the senate, because, especially in the senate race, Democrats had a chance with Richard Carmona to gain a seat. However, Romney's white-collar and soccer-mom Republicans in Scottsdale and other suburban areas are not, for the most part, gun-totin' bigots, and polls show Sheriff Arpaio has lost significant support among these GOP voters. Sure, racist goobers and tea party pinheads will turn out for him, as they always will, but some Wall Street and Mormon Republicans, who constitute a sizable slice of the GOP pie in Maricopa County, will be less likely to interrupt their day in order to retain a corrupt turd that many of them consider an embarrassment.
According to New Times, the NRA stepped into the breech this week, running a three-minute ad on their "NRA News" show, which airs on the Sporting Channel. A week after the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA held a now infamous press conference during which Wayne LaPierre called on all schools in America to arm themselves. Sensing another media spotlight, Sheriff Joe Arpaio immediately announced that his volunteer posse would begin patrolling more than 50 schools.
The Sheriff's posse has been around a long time; it was originally established to patrol shopping mall parking lots during the holiday season. About 500 of the 3,000 posse members carry weapons, but they all wear police-looking uniforms and drive police-looking cars. You'd think they are actual lawmen, and Arpaio all but says they are, but they're not: They haven't received certified training, and they cannot detain, order, or arrest you—beyond what a regular citizen can. One investigation also revealed that some posse members have criminal backgrounds. I'm sure many are well-meaning citizens who want to help; I'd also bet some are boys (and gals) who wanna play cop, and throw around their misguided sense of authority.
If they want to drive around schools and show a police presence, so be it; but they do not enter the schools, which is what the NRA wanted. And, as mentioned, very few of them carry weapons, which is also what the NRA wanted. So it's a bit odd that the NRA would air a butt-kissing ad that suggests posse members are armed, that they patrol in the schools, and that the volunteers are identical to the Sheriff's deputies—none of which is true.
Notice the assault weapons, flak jackets, and Newtown references at the beginning. The video suggests Arpaio's posse members are "highly equipped" and ready to engage a militaristic operation. But that's not the case. If their presence is a deterrent, wonderful; but they are not the armed and trained officials Wayne LaPierre wants. And let's not forget: Arpaio's trained deputies screw up often enough—arresting innocent people, conducting illegal surveillance, and abusing power. What can we expect from an all-volunteer force?
It's for that reason that some minority school districts have asked Arpaio to stay away. It's no secret that the Sheriff has a shitty reputation in Latino communities, and no doubt some of his volunteers share the same anti-immigrant views. Civil rights advocates worry that his posse members, with loads of time on their hands, will spend it harassing Hispanic parents and students—hundreds of George Zimmermans with a badge.
And so the Sheriff Arpaio recall is off and running. It's been talked about a lot and tried once before, in 2007, but that group failed to even gather the necessary 200,000 signatures to put the measure on a ballot. Six years later, the political climate and demographics have changed significantly; and with the growth of social media, to name one new tool, human rights activists and concerned citizens of all stripes have an opportunity to dispense the fog of hate that has blanketed Maricopa County for more than two decades.
ACTION UPDATE: For information about the Arpaio recall visit: Respect Arizona. Anyone can volunteer or donate; of course you must live in Maricopa County to sign the petition.