Opinion: We cannot let Joe Arpaio make the 2020 election about him. Not if we want other Republican candidates to win.
There have been some famous political campaigns based entirely on vanity. Ross Perot’s quixotic adventure of 1992, which handed the White House to Bill Clinton, comes to mind.
This year, Mark Sanford and Bill Weld are challenging President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. Someone may want to tell Sanford and Weld that random names in the phone book have the same odds of winning as either of them.
However, nothing compares to the vanity of Joe Arpaio’s 2020 comeback for Maricopa County Sheriff, a post he held for 24 years before losing to Paul Penzone.
The odds of Arpaio winning a Penzone rematch are extremely low. The odds of him managing the office well, if he were to win, are zero.
I don’t know many people who think an 88-year-old – in the odd chance he wins – should be working a full-time job, let alone a job that entails overseeing one of the most important law-enforcement entities in the state.
Arpaio’s rein was a nightmare
For those of you who are new to Arizona or have selective amnesia about the Arizona nightmare that was the Joe Arpaio era, here are a few highlights:
Costly settlements: Scott Norberg, an inmate, died while in custody in the late 1990s during a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies. His death and subsequent lawsuit marked the first of string of multi-million settlements out the sheriff’s office.
Racial profiling: In 2013, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Arpaio had violated the constitutional rights of Latinos and that his deputies were relying on racial profiling to detain Latinos.
A presidential pardon: President Trump pardoned Arpaio in August 2017 for the criminal contempt charge regarding his handling of undocumented immigrants.
He will distract from McSally, Trump
As someone who wants Trump to win Arizona’s electoral votes and for Sen. Martha McSally to beat Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, I can’t think of a worse distraction than Arpaio winning the GOP nomination for sheriff.
He just won’t be able to help himself. He will do his best to make the entire 2020 election about him. It’s been his modus operandi since the 1990s.
He repeatedly fanned the rumor that he was contemplating a run for governor. It turned out to be just that – a rumor. But like all things Arpaio, he was playing the media to remain the center of every story possible.
Everything was about him, from his personal goon squad to his pink underwear and Tent City for detainees to his unconstitutional policies for cracking down on illegal immigrants. Self-promotion was at the forefront of everything he did at taxpayers’ expense and endangering the safety of county residents.
Penzone, on the other hand, became the opposite of Arpaio. He doesn’t crave the spotlight. He doesn’t create public relations stunts. In fact, I don’t think most Arizona voters know who he is.
That’s fine, but Penzone’s low-profile could also be his liability against anyone else other than Arpaio.
That could pull down the GOP ticket
There’s no doubt that Arpaio’s approval numbers have cratered since his zenith. Heck, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that.
Everyone knows Arpaio can be beaten badly in the general election. The question is, and it is the seminal question to this discussion, have Arpaio’s polling numbers deteriorated enough with the GOP electorate that he’s vulnerable with primary election voters?
One of the worst things imaginable for Trump and McSally will be Arpaio’s access to microphones and press coverage leading up to the November general election. He will suck the air out of the room and be a nonstop distraction, potentially pulling the entire ticket down with him.
Trump and McSally supporters should be praying that someone with courage, conviction and credibility steps forward to challenge Arpaio in the primary election.
Republicans should agree that is time for the Arpaio nightmare to end. Seriously, we are better than this.