President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio divided Arizona Republicans Friday, with Gov. Doug Ducey calling the ex-lawman a friend and U.S. Sen. John McCain criticizing the decision.
In a statement, McCain acknowledged Trump’s authority to pardon Arpaio.
“But doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law, as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions,” the senator said.
Ducey, too, noted that it’s within the president’s powers to pardon the former sheriff.
“And with this action, he has brought finality to this chapter in Arizona’s history. Sheriff Joe is my friend, and now he, Ava and their family can move on and enjoy their retirement together,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, Arizona GOP spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair paraphrased her party’s chairman, Jonathan Lines, and said pardons are a president’s prerogative.
“President Trump has chosen to exercise that right,” she said.
The discordant reactions, including the party spokeswoman’s carefully worded statement, hint of the complicated path ahead for the Arizona Republican Party and its efforts to woo Latinos, whose response to the pardon was universal dismay and frustration.
Indeed, while Ducey regarded the pardon as bringing “finality to this chapter in Arizona’s history,” for the state’s Latino community, the president’s decision served like salt on a festering wound.
Rep. Catherine Miranda, a Democrat from Phoenix, said the president just pardoned “racism, hate and division” and placed her community in danger.
Maricopa County supervisor Steve Gallardo, a former legislator, described the pardon as a “slap in the face of not only Latinos, but the Maricopa County taxpayers who have footed the bill for his unconstitutional deeds.”
“Arpaio, given his disregard for the law, does not deserve a pardon. President Trump may absolve him of his criminal conviction, but our community will never absolve him of blame,” he said.
Chuck Coughlin, a lobbyist and campaign strategist, actually believes that the Latino electorate is still up for grabs, given that his data show divisions within this community when it comes to legal vis-à-vis illegal immigration and Latinos are traditionally socially conservative.
But the unquestionable perception, he added, is that the pardon makes it more difficult for Republicans to attract broad cross sections of Latinos.
Coughlin said Arpaio has been a polarizing figure since his earliest elections.
“He was Trump before Trump – a showman playing to divisiveness in law enforcement capacity,” he said. “And the left and the Democrats will continue to view him use as a polarizing figure, and the hard, anti-immigration and nativist right will use him as a martyr for the cause.”
What this episode speaks to, he added, is an “illness” plaguing America’s political system, in which people play to base politics rather than resolve pressing issues.
But Coughlin also wondered if the episode and Trump’s insistence on building a wall on the Southern border offers a moment of compromise.
“Is there an opportunity for Dreamers to strike a deal?” he said.
He noted that big, sweeping immigration bills have failed in the past, and many have argued that small steps, rather than a grand fixes, might be the best path forward.
Coughlin said resolving the issue of Dreamers has popular political appeal in both parties and among independents.
“So, well, let’s do that,” he said.