Maricopa County Sheriff candidates compete to oust Arpaio

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was at the Tent City Protest in South Phoenix on June 23 to provide comments to the media regarding the controversial Senate Bill 1070 and immigration concerns in the state. (Photo by Shawn Raymundo)

As the November elections approach, three Maricopa County Sheriff candidates want to remove current Sheriff Joe Arpaio and reform the sheriff’s office.

Arpaio has held office since 1993 and has been re-elected five times. “America’s Toughest Sheriff” is known for his support of Senate Bill 1070 and his creation of “Tent City.” Arpaio has received almost $7 million in campaign donations for this election period, according to a June 30 campaign finance report.

Maricopa County is nearly equal parts Democrat, Republican and Independent, though Democrats make up a slightly lesser portion. Past elections have had Arpaio winning by double digits and in 2008, despite controversy and defamation lawsuits, he earned roughly 55 percent of the vote to beat Democratic challenger Dan Saban by about 12 percent.

Arpaio Campaign spokesman Chad Willems said Arpaio has been an efficient sheriff so far because of his experience, successful policies, and for saving taxpayers money and maintaining a low crime rate.

“The sheriff has been a good steward in overseeing his county,” Willems said. “He has a proven track record of success.”

Willems said because the Maricopa County Sheriff is elected by Maricopa County voters, the sheriff’s office is a political office. If re-elected, he said Arpaio will focus on issues associated with sex offenders, animal abuse and street gangs in addition to immigration issues.

Maricopa County voters will decide between Democratic candidates John Rowan and Paul Penzone in the August 28 Democratic primary.

Penzone, a 45-year-old Scottsdale resident, spent more than 20 years as a Phoenix police officer. Penzone received almost $149,000 in campaign donations for this election period, according to a June 30 report.

Penzone Campaign spokeswoman Stacy Pearson said Penzone seeks to return integrity to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Between the lawsuits and the fiscal mismanagement, there is an opportunity to get the house in order again at MCSO relative to their finances,” Pearson said.

Though Penzone is a Democratic candidate, Pearson said politics have no role in a sheriff’s job.

“Political agendas should play absolutely no role in public safety,” Pearson said. “Paul is committed to running that office as an a-political office.”

Pearson said having Penzone as Maricopa County Sheriff would be a step in the right direction and would help restore Arizona’s reputation.

Rowan, a Buckeye resident, spent more than 20 years in law enforcement with the New York Police Department, leaving NYPD in 2003. He went on to become assistant to the Goodyear Chief of Police and retired in 2011. Rowan received almost $11,300 in campaign donations for this election period, according to a June 30 campaign finance report.

According to Rowan’s campaign website, his platform focuses on increasing community feedback to the Sheriff’s Office, reversing SB 1070, reviewing conditions in “Tent City” and introducing high quality ethics training for law enforcement officials.

Along with the chosen Democratic candidate, Independent candidate Mike Stauffer, a 50-year-old Cave Creek resident, will be running against Arpaio in the fall election.

With more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, Stauffer’s career began with the NYPD. He began working for the Scottsdale Police Department in 1991. Stauffer received almost $47,000 in campaign donations for this election period, according to a June 30 report.

The race may revolve around the Republican candidate, Arpaio, and the Independent candidate, Stauffer, based on the amount of Republican, Democratic and Independent registered voters in Maricopa County.

Stauffer Campaign spokesman West Kenyon said Stauffer’s main reform goals include taking politics out of the Sheriff’s Office, closing “Tent City” and relocating the Sheriff’s Office from the 19th floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix to a Maricopa County jail.

Kenyon said promoting legislation is not the sheriff’s job.

“You can’t be a partisan sheriff and be effective in doing your job,” Kenyon said. “Law enforcement should not be arresting you and making critical decisions of emergency and safety based on political opinion.”

He said prisoners should be housed in hard cells instead of “Tent City.”

Kenyon said “Tent City” is an unsafe “lawsuit magnet” where escapes occur more often than they would if the prisoners were housed in hard cells.

He said the Sheriff’s Office in the Wells Fargo building as well as an excessive amount of command positions are unnecessary expenses.

“(Arpaio) does not need that,” Kenyon said. “We have millions of dollars sitting on the 19th floor that aren’t doing anyone any good.”

 

Reach the reporter at dgrobmei@asu.edu

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