The nation’s best-known sheriff was defeated in his re-election bid on Tuesday. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has long called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was booted by Democrat Paul Penzone after two decades in the job. The 84-year-old Republican Arpaio had held the office since 1993 and had gained a reputation for harshness towards felons in his jail and for strict adherence to immigration laws.
Throughout this race, Arpaio had faced a criminal contempt charge and an expensive lawsuit whose costs may run into $72 million and has been charged to taxpayers in Maricopa County. He was charged two weeks ago with criminal contempt of court after he violated a 2011 court order to cease his deputies’ immigration raids. Arpaio says he will continue to fight the charge in court. A court date has been set for December.
Arpaio gained fame for his approach towards immigrants, and his tent city jails where he kept inmates in the Arizona heat. He argued that they deserved no better treatment than American troops serving in Iraq. Arpaio gained notoriety among his detractors for openly questioning whether President Obama was born in the United States, thus cementing his reputation as a “birther.”
Arpaio has been applauded by numerous Republicans and conservatives, and gained an ally in Donald Trump. The controversial sheriff spoke at the Republican National Convention this summer and endorsed Trump’s presidential candidacy.
Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, has a Latino community that amounts to about 30 percent of the population. Groups such as People United for Justice and Bazta Arpaio conducted get-out-the-vote campaigns, knocking on thousands of voters’ doors to vote against Arpaio. The groups did not specifically advocate for Penzone, but did hold numerous events denouncing Arpaio. Democratic presidential candidate called on residents to vote against Arpaio. At a rally in Tempe last week, Clinton asked her supporters, “I think it’s time you had a new sheriff in town, don’t you?”
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