‘He doesn’t see himself as Joe. That’s his identity: Being the sheriff….’
(Liberty Headlines) In a memorabilia-packed office that could serve as a museum to his career, Joe Arpaio strategizes how he might, at the age of 87, get back his old job as the sheriff of metro Phoenix, Arizona.
The man who became a national lightning rod for immigration also became a prime target for the far Left.
After being forced out in the 2016 race for his seventh term as sheriff amid an influx of dark money (much coming from George Soros-affiliated organizations), Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for defying liberal court orders—and later pardoned by President Donald Trump.
Among those on the Left who sought to disgrace him was “Borat” comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who used false pretenses to deceive him into appearing on a prank show and answering questions dripping with sexual innuendo.
“I got played,” he said.
Loved by some and loathed by others, spends his days at an office in a strip mall in the affluent suburb of Fountain Hills.
He talks to reporters, takes calls from supporters on his flip phone and pecks out self-promotional blurbs on a Smith Corona typewriter that an assistant later transcribes and posts on social media.
He rejects suggestions that he’s running to stroke his ego, quench a thirst for publicity or lessen any boredom since getting booted from office.
Although his name may be cleared now, he insists he’s not out to settle any scores either over the politically motivated criminal conviction—contempt of court for disobeying a judge’s 2011 order in a racial profiling case to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
Instead, he says he wants to do whatever he can to support President Donald Trump, whose pardon of the lawman hangs prominently on a wall next to Arpaio’s desk.
He also vows to bring back the things that garnered him nationwide recognition during his 24 years as Maricopa County’s top law enforcer: immigration crackdowns, a complex of jail tents and other now-discarded trademarks that courts have deemed illegal or his successor has done away with.
“I just have a desire to get back into the fight and do what I can do to finish my career,” Arpaio said, his phone buzzing throughout the interview. “It’s hard to explain it. It’s hard to explain it honestly to you. Hard.”
But it does not promise to be an easy road this time.
The Phoenix region has grown increasingly blue, due not only to migration from the southern border but also from liberal states like California, where excessive taxes have sent residents fleeing—and bringing with them their politics.
Democrat Paul Penzone, a retired Phoenix police sergeant, trounced the Republican Arpaio by nearly 13 points in 2016.
Arpaio’s first political comeback attempt ended badly when he placed third in the 2018 GOP Senate primary, losing in Maricopa County and his adopted hometown of Fountain Hills.
People who have known Arpaio for decades offer varying reasons for his run.
“Whenever Joe calls me, he says, ‘Tom, this is the sheriff,’ said Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey, a retired chief U.S. marshal and a longtime Arpaio friend. “He doesn’t see himself as Joe. That’s his identity: Being the sheriff.”
Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio’s former second-in-command who will face his old boss in the GOP primary for sheriff, said he was disappointed when Arpaio backed out of a promise to support his campaign.
“I think what he fails to realize is that his time is over because the people, after 24 years, have made it clear they don’t want him back,” said Sheridan.
Arpaio acknowledged early conversations about Sheridan’s candidacy but sums up with this: “People have a right to change their minds and run for office.”
Arpaio isn’t running because he needs money.
He has two pensions, one from his earlier 27-year tenure as a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent and another from his second career as sheriff, and he and his wife of 61 years, Ava, own a home valued at $400,000 and nearly $2.5 million in commercial real estate.
Ava Arpaio says she and her two children support his run for office. She says he was never going to have a conventional retirement.
“He loves his work and would like to get back into it,” Ava said.
Since losing in 2016, Arpaio has kept occupied by making social media posts about politics, traveling across the country to speak to Republican groups and endorsing a colorful list of candidates:
- an India-born candidate who ran on the slogan “only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian” in the race won by Sen. Elizabeth Warren
- a losing Senate candidate in Missouri who made a social media post that railed against “nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she devils”
- Dennis Hof, the Nevada pimp-turned-politician whose birthday bash was attended by Arpaio, porn star Ron Jeremy and tax-cut activist Grover Norquist, just hours before Hof died of a heart attack
Arpaio says the candidates seeking his endorsement want to talk about his background, illegal immigration, his jail tents and criminal contempt case.
“I naturally talk about Trump,” Arpaio said.
Although another onslaught of negative attacks from the Left is likely imminent should his campaign gain traction, Arpaio remains doggedly unrepentant about how he ran the agency and his immigration crackdowns.
Even if he were to apologize, he said critics would still hate him. As for the calls to be more sensitive in talking about race, Arpaio sees a cynical motivation at play.
“I don’t go along with this [political] correctness crap all the time to get votes,” Arpaio said.
Adapted from previous reporting by the Associated Press.