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Recall committee's effort to oust Arpaio nears end

The campaign to recall Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces tough odds in its quest to collect 335,000 signatures by May 30 to end Arpaio's 20-year career as sheriff.

Respect Arizona, a committee petitioning for the recall, has received a little more than 200,000 signatures.

If the signatures are obtained, the citizens of Maricopa County will vote on whether or not to remove Arpaio from office. Arpaio was first elected in 1992 and and has been re-elected five times since, most recently in 2012.

Respect Arizona Campaign Manager Lilia Alvarez said she is confident that Arpaio will be voted out of office if a recall election occurs.

“The last election had a three-candidate split, and with Arpaio’s opponents combined, there were more anti-Arpaio votes than pro-Arpaio votes,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the organization is increasing its efforts to gather signatures and is not going to give up.

“We’re confident that the movement keeps growing,” Alvarez said. “It’s an uphill climb as any recall election is, but we are very much diligent with it to the end.”

Respect Arizona launched the Pink Arpaio campaign — a reference to the pink underwear Arpaio requires inmates to wear — on Thursday to raise funds and support the recall effort. The campaign will send Arpaio a postcard telling him why he should be recalled. To send the card for $2, supporters can register at Respect Arizona's website.

Alvarez said Arpaio bought the 2012 election by using all of the $8.5 million he received from mostly out-of-state donors. She said without that campaign money and the three candidate split on the ballot, Arpaio likely would not have won the election.

“The margin is so close,” Alvarez said. “Now it is a much more level playing field.”

The recall committee relies on volunteers to spread its message and gather signatures, and does not use paid employees, Alvarez said.

Alvarez was a co-founder of the committee that recalled former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, in 2011. She said there are no major differences in both efforts.

“This is not our first rodeo,” Alvarez said. “History does repeat itself.”

Arpaio said to his supporters in a fundraising email sent March 24 that he could lose a recall election if it came to one, according to an Associated Press article.

Lisa Magaña, a professor at the ASU School of Transborder Studies, said the recall campaign is suffering because people are focusing on other issues, such as the bipartisan immigration policy being drafted in the U.S. Congress.

“This recall election is losing steam,” Magaña said. “I think it’s pooping out because of the immigration reform. A lot of energy is going into that.”

Magaña said energy and motivation are crucial to the effort.

She said she studied the Pearce recall closely and that the Arpaio campaign lacks the energy and funding exhibited by that recall effort. However, she said it is likely that Arpaio would be recalled if enough signatures are collected.

“It was close in the last election," Magaña said. "I don’t think people would have re-elected (Arpaio) if it wasn’t a Presidential election year. It’s feasible that they recall him, but they are running out of energy and time.”

Political science sophomore Corey Helsel, a member of the College Republicans at ASU, said he does not support Arpaio but believes the recall effort will fail.

“Sheriff Joe has never had any problem winning re-election,” Helsel said. “In November, it seemed that he was at his most vulnerable, but he still won re-election by a comfortable margin. The only way Sheriff Joe is removed is if he retires or dies. I don't see him ever leaving office against his will.”


Reach the reporter at or follow him @jthrall1

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