At a stop this week in Tucson where he endorsed Adam Kwasman for State Rep., Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio did not appear surprised to have been followed by several Occupy Tucson protestors. Rather than shy away from his critics, the Sheriff instead addressed them directly, incorporating their protest into his larger argument that it’s hard, but necessary to be a dedicated conservative in Southern Arizona.
It seems that wherever Joe Arpaio shows up these days, controversy and protests follow him. However, this has not stopped the embattled Sheriff from increasing his national public presence.
This is because, despite the criticism he has received, in many ways Arpaio appears to be having the last laugh. As his protestors become increasingly vociferous, the Sheriff’s political star seems to be rising higher and higher on the national stage. He has recently made publicized stops in Iowa and New Hampshire supporting Republican candidates for office there. And it has been reported that nearly every Republican presidential candidate has come to him for advisement on the topic of border enforcement. His increasing national visibility has even prompted some to speculate that he himself might be planning to join the presidential race.
However, despite the skillful ways in which Arpaio has thus far been able to throw off and even use to his benefit the criticisms leveled against him, there are indications that his detractors may be gaining ground. Arpaio is up for reelection in 2012, and at the very least he should be preparing for a difficult battle. This week it was announced that Citizens for a Better Arizona, the organization responsible for collecting the signatures that eventually led to State Sen. Russell Pearce’s recall from office, will be devoting their energies over the next year to inhibiting Arpaio’s reelection. Given their success with the Pearce recall vote, and the close relationship between the ex-Senator and the Sheriff, Arpaio may have reason to fear this newest campaign against him.
The most likely person to replace Arpaio at the moment may be Independent candidate and Scottsdale Police Lieutenant Mike Stauffer. Stauffer is already actively courting the state’s Latino voters who are likely to turn out in droves to vote against Arpaio. However, despite the fact that there is much outrage in Arizona against the current Sheriff, Stauffer will face an uphill battle, considering the extremely well-funded campaign Arpaio is sure to run.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has developed a national reputation for his extremely harsh approach to finding and deporting undocumented immigrants in Maricopa County. He has been accused by his detractors of, among other things, the violation of detainees’ civil rights, the abuse of power in targeting political rivals, and the misuse of state funds.