PHOENIX (AP) — Joe Arpaio, the 90-year-old former Phoenix Metro sheriff who was ousted by voters frustrated with his headline-grabbing tactics and legal troubles, is following his opponent in the race for mayor of the affluent suburb where he lived for more than two decades.
The six-term former Maricopa County sheriff said late Tuesday night that the vote totals so far have come from advance ballots and that he is awaiting the in-person vote totals in his bid to unseat the mayor of two terms Ginny Dickey.
The stakes for Arpaio in Tuesday’s election are far lower than when he was the top law enforcement official for 4 million people as six-term Maricopa County sheriff.
Now, he seeks the top leadership position in a community of about 24,000 on the outskirts of Metro Phoenix.
“My secret weapon has always been: reaching people,” Arpaio said. “You definitely need it to get elected in a small town.”
Dickey said when she learned Arpaio was running against her, she didn’t know how her candidacy would affect the race. She ultimately concluded that it didn’t change much except that he had a fundraising edge and notoriety and that she hadn’t changed his campaign.
“I think I ran the same way as usual,” Dickey said.
Nearly six years out of power, Arpaio admitted it was harder for him to get his political message across. But Arpaio rejects criticism that he should step away from public life.
“I’m still healthy and will continue to fight for what people need,” Arpaio said. “Maybe it’s corny. What else is there?”
Arpaio was crushed by a Democratic challenger in 2016 after 24 years in office as sheriff and was found guilty the following year of criminal contempt of court for disobeying a judge’s order to stop patrols of traffic that targeted immigrants, although he was later pardoned by then-President Donald. Asset.
Arpaio went on to finish third in a Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018 and second in the GOP primary in a 2020 bid to win back the office of sheriff.
In both of these attempts, Arpaio lost the vote in Fountain Hills.
Like Arpaio, Dickey is a longtime member of the community. She previously served on a school board and the Fountain Hills City Council.
Arpaio, a skilled political fundraiser who spent more than $12 million on his 2016 sheriff’s campaign, shelled out $161,000 in the mayoral race, six times the amount Dickey spent.
Before the federal government and the courts stripped him of his immigration powers, Arpaio led 20 large-scale traffic patrols targeting immigrants and more than 80 trade raids to arrest people working in the United States without permission.
While his defiant streak played well with voters for many years, Arpaio faced heavy criticism for embracing policies he knew were controversial and racking up $147 million in taxpayer-funded legal bills..
Despite billing himself as America’s toughest sheriff, his agency has botched investigations into more than 400 sex crime complaints filed with his office.
Arpaio said he is not worried about his past haunting him in the mayoral race.
“All that baggage didn’t make a difference, except in 2016. But I had baggage in 2012 — big baggage,” Arpaio said. “And I was re-elected.”