A political group dubbed Respect Arizona has launched a campaign to recall Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The group said during a press conference Thursday that it has filed the necessary paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office to initiate the recall efforts against the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”
Organizers with the group said they need to collect a minimum of 335,317 signatures by May 30 to force the recall election in November. Though they plan to hire a firm to help gather signatures, volunteers will do much of the work.
Randy Parraz, a long-time opponent of Arpaio and a member of Respect Arizona, said efforts to collect the signatures will begin this weekend. In 2010, as a member of Citizens for a Better Arizona, Parraz led efforts to recall former Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, a Republican and the lead author of SB 1070. Parraz’s group is now joining Respect Arizona in the campaign to recall Arpaio.
“It’s going to be a difficult journey, but I think that if there was ever a politician who deserves a recall election, it would be Sheriff Arpaio,” he said.
Arpaio was first elected sheriff of Maricopa County in 1993. Since then, he has served six consecutive terms. He is currently 80-years-old and plans to run to keep his seat in 2016.
Joe Arpaio: ‘I have faith in the people of Maricopa County’
Chad Willems, Arpaio’s campaign manager, released a statement Thursday responding to the recall election efforts. Willems stated that to kick off the recall efforts three months after the sheriff was re-elected “completely disrespects the voters of Maricopa County.”
“This group of sore losers simply cannot accept the choice the voters made last year and now they will attempt to dupe the good people of Maricopa County,” said Willems, who also called on Respect Arizona to disclose its list of donors who have contributed to its campaign.
Arpaio also responded to the recall efforts in a statement saying, “I have faith in the people of Maricopa County. They know exactly what and who they want in office and they won’t be fooled by outside special interests.”
He also stated that he believed the recall efforts were launched due to his “stance on enforcing all the laws of our state including those pertaining to illegal immigration.”
But that’s not the reason why members of Respect Arizona said they launched such efforts.
Joe Arpaio has done ‘a horrible job’ as sheriff
Williams James Fisher, the chairman of Respect Arizona and an attorney, said they initiated the recall efforts because they believe Joe Arpaio has done “a horrible job” as sheriff and has caused Maricopa County “a lot of damage.”
He noted there have been multiple lawsuits—including one by the U.S. Department of Justice and another by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—accusing the sheriff and his office of racial profiling.
In 2011, Arpaio was also accused of misspending nearly $100 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for immigration patrols and unsuccessful criminal investigations on political foes, including two county officials and a judge. That same year, it was reported that Arpaio and his office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases against children.
A year before that, the U.S. Department of Justice began a two-year criminal investigation looking into allegations of abuse of power by Arpaio’s office and other state officials. The investigation concluded last September and no criminal charges were filed.
Most recently, Arpaio was criticized for the death of a 60-year-old inmate who died in the sheriff’s Tent City in early January. Authorities said the inmate died from cardiac arrest but an investigation is underway to investigate the death. Immigrant rights advocates argue inmates are housed under inhumane conditions at Tent City.
Group hopes to expose ‘the real Joe Arpaio’ through recall efforts
Chad Snow, chairman of Citizens for a Better Arizona, told VOXXI that despite these serious allegations against the Sheriff, most people in Maricopa County “don’t really know the real Joe Arpaio.”
“They know the Joe Arpaio that they see on TV during his circus side shows,” he said referring to the immigration raids conducted by Arpaio’s deputies as an example. “Part of our job is going to be to educate people about his record in law enforcement, his record as far as fiscal accountability and his corruption.”
Snow said having a recall election could force Arpaio to debate, something he avoided last year.
He added that Respect Arizona hasn’t picked any candidates who could run against Arpaio. However, he said they are looking for someone who has “courage” to run against Arpaio and has “good management experience.”
Fisher, chairman of Respect Arizona, told VOXXI he is looking for someone “who is a better administrator, is a better leader and understands what the county needs.”