Joe Arpaio foes launch recall effort

Jeremy Duda//January 30, 2013

Joe Arpaio foes launch recall effort

Jeremy Duda//January 30, 2013

Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Members of the coalition that recalled former Senate President Russell Pearce are setting their sights on a bigger prize – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Organizers of a recall campaign against the long-serving sheriff filed paperwork for their recall committee, Respect Arizona, with county election officials today.

The recall effort was first reported by the Phoenix New Times.

Parraz would not provide many details on the upcoming effort. He said Respect Arizona Chairman William James Fisher, a Phoenix attorney, would provide more details at a press conference on Thursday.

A recall effort against Arpaio would be an expensive and difficult endeavor. Just to get the sheriff on the ballot, organizers will have to collect 335,317 signatures within four months of filing their paperwork with the county. The total is 25 percent of the more than 1.3 million ballots cast in the sheriff’s race in 2012.

And any potential opponents would have to overcome the sheriff’s popularity in conservative Maricopa County, his massive fundraising abilities and a strong Republican voter registration edge in the county.

If organizers get enough valid signatures, a recall election would likely be held in November, said Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne.

In a recent message to political consultants and others, Bonita Burks of Sign Here Petitions, the firm that gathered signatures for the Pearce recall, said her company would be paying petition gatherers $1.75 to $2 per signature for a three-to-four month effort that would begin on Feb. 1.

Parraz wouldn’t comment on whether Sign Here was working on behalf of the Arpaio recall, or whether the organizers had any financial commitments for a campaign that will likely cost more than $1 million to get Arpaio on a ballot.

“They’ll be addressing those issues. A lot of it’s going to be about are people willing to donate to this effort,” Parraz told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Getting Arpaio on a recall ballot will be difficult enough, but knocking the 20-year incumbent from office will likely be far more difficult. Arpaio was reelected in November to his sixth term in office, and though support for the controversial sheriff has slipped in recent years, he still remains a popular figure who has long been viewed as politically invincible.

Arpaio’s opponents had hoped 2012 would be the year in which they could oust the sheriff, who was weighed down by a racial profiling lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice over his illegal immigration policies, controversy over allegedly botched sex crime investigations and serious personnel problems that led to the firing of his chief deputy.

The sheriff won 50.7 percent of the vote, the lowest general election total he’d ever tallied. But he still won his three-way race with Democrat Paul Penzone and independent Mike Stauffer, despite a well-funded and well-organized campaign against him. Arpaio raised a staggering $8.5 million from across the country for his reelection.

If organizers are able to force a recall, other candidates will need 26,825 signatures to get onto the ballot.

Arpaio, who was sworn in about two weeks ago for his sixth term and has already filed paperwork for his 2016 reelection, said he was unfamiliar with the recall efforts and had no comment.

“I don’t have any details,” he said. “They’ve been talking about this two, three years.”