It took only a few hours after self-described “America’s toughest sheriff” Joe Arpaio announced his bid for the U.S. Senate to move into a statistical tie with the front-runner.
During more than two decades as the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, he established his reputation by setting up chain gangs for inmates to contribute thousands of dollars of free labor to communities, painting over graffiti and cleaning streets. He banned smoking, coffee, movies, pornographic magazines and unrestricted TV in jails. His costs per meal for inmates ran between 15 cents and 40 cents. He provided pink underwear for inmates to wear, after learning that inmates were stealing white jailhouse boxers.
He also posted mugshots online to serve as a deterrent, and he was behind the only official law-enforcement investigation of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. His investigators concluded that the birth certificate Obama presented at the White House as an official government document almost certainly is a forgery.
Most recently, he challenged Barack Obama’s policies that essentially opened America’s borders to illegal aliens.
He announced his bid early Tuesday, and within hours a poll by KNXV-TV in Phoenix found he was grabbing 29 percent of the vote, a statistical tie with first place candidate Martha McSally at 31 percent.
Former state senator Kelli Ward, who has been the front runner in recent polls, dropped to 25 percent in the latest survey, a review of the opinions of 504 likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error is 4.36 percent.
“The poll mirrors initial speculation that Arpaio could edge out Ward and create an opening for McSally, who colleagues have said is planning a Senate run but has not yet made an announcement,” the survey report said.
An endorsement of Arpaio by President Trump would bump him up to 35 percent, the poll said. The Republican primary for the seat held by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake will be held in August and the general election in November.
When Arpaio announced his bid Tuesday, he said he knew it would not be easy.
“Moments ago, I filed the paperwork to run for United States Senate in Arizona to fill the seat that Jeff Flake is leaving behind,” he wrote in an email. “This is NOT going to be easy, and I pray to have your continued support today on DAY ONE of my campaign.”
Arpaio was Maricopa County’s elected sheriff from 1993 to 2016 and was voted out only after his enforcement of federal immigration laws earned him the opposition of both the Obama administration and a federal judge who said he had engaged in profiling and mistreating prisoners.
President Trump immediately granted him a pardon for the conviction, but the publicity cost him the most recent election for sheriff.
Arpaio recently told the Washington Examiner: “I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted. But I would not [be] doing this if I thought that I could not win. I’m not here to get my name in the paper, I get that every day, anyway.”
He explained he wants to be in the Senate to back up President Trump.
“Friend, with many of President Obama’s failed and dangerous policies still in place, our nation is not safe – at least not yet. President Trump is working around the clock to make America great again, but he can’t do this alone – he needs our conservative voice and my vote in Washington.”
He cited existing problems:
- “Sanctuary cities like San Francisco are literally refusing to hold illegal immigrants accountable for their actions, just to further their politically correct, pro-amnesty agenda.
- “The once bedrock American commitment to paying our bills has been replaced by over $20 trillion in national debt.
- “The liberal Left attacks the rights of law abiding gun owners – but doesn’t even bat an eye while so-called ‘doctors’ slaughter millions of unborn children in their mother’s womb every single year.
- “Millionaire athletes are lionized by the fake news media as ‘heroes’ for disrespecting the American flag and refusing to stand for our national anthem.”
“Enough is enough. I’m running for Senate because I want America to be great again. I know this isn’t going to be easy. I know I’ll be attacked by the far left, the establishment right and of course, the liberal media. The media is going to say every nasty thing they can think of and try to break me. But, friend, I have never been one to shy away from a fight – and I can’t in good conscience sit back in retirement knowing that my grandchildren will inherit a country worse off than the America I’ve spent my entire life defending.”
Trump noted that Arpaio’s career started when he was 18 and enlisted in the military to go to Korea.
“After serving in the Army, Arpaio became a police officer in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, Nev., and later served as a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), formerly the Bureau of Narcotics. After 25 years of admirable service, Arpaio went on to lead the DEA’s branch in Arizona,” the White House said.
Arpaio had been at odds with the Obama administration since its beginning, mostly over illegal immigration. The sheriff sued because of the impact illegal aliens have on the safety and security of his county’s residents. Federal officials, in turn, have accused him of not treating illegals properly.
A split panel of federal judges said Arpaio didn’t have standing to sue, with the minority expressing outrage that the concerns of the sheriff of one of the nation’s largest counties would be dismissed.