Friday, November 2, 2012

Old Joe Arpaio Runs Against Self - and May Lose!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I guess I should feel privileged to live in Maricopa County, Arizona.  Of the 3,033 counties or equivalents ("boroughs" in Alaska, "parishes" in Louisiana) in the United States, rare are the souls who have not heard of Maricopa County, Arizona, or formed some strong opinions, either pro or con, regarding our chief lawman, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Old Joe, age 80, has been sheriff here since he was first elected in 1992.  He is currently running for his for his sixth term.

Everyone knows the basics about Geriatric Joe.  He is a one-man publicity machine who has a knack for getting himself in front of news cameras.  He became "famous" or "infamous" for his treatment of the prisoners in his various county jails.  Joe put his prisoners in pink underwear and bragged about feeding them awful meals at almost no cost to the county.  He limited their television to programs that no one would want to watch - all the while shamelessly bragging to the press and public about how he would not kowtow to the inmates.  Joe was, he assured one and all, "America's toughest sheriff!"

Others, of course, would argue that he was America's biggest bullshitter.

The deeds of Joe Arpaio are legendary.  Beyond the pink underwear, he managed to keep his name in the press by staging traffic stops all around Phoenix to nab "illegals" - with very minimal results considering the time and money that went into those massive traffic tie-ups.  He received criticism for what appeared to be his use of sheriff's department personnel for personal vendettas against political opponents.   Last year it was discovered that hundreds of sex abuse allegations in El Mirage, Arizona, many against children, had gone ignored by his office.

But the sheriff may have had too many other things on his plate to pay adequate attention to sexually abused children.  He has been busy, after all, looking into the status of President Obama's "alleged" birth certificate.  He even sent a deputy to Hawaii to do some firsthand investigating.

People have died while in Joe's jails.  Successful lawsuits against Maricopa County as a result of actions by the sheriff's department have resulted in monetary awards in the neighborhood of $50 million.  But no matter, many taxpayers all seem to love him.  Joe does, after all, save the county money on his use of green bologna to feed the his inmates.

Today there was an article on the website of The New York Times regarding Old Joe and his re-election campaign.  The focus of that piece was on Maricopa County's Hispanic voters.  It seems some groups are using Arpaio as the bogeyman in an effort to get the Hispanic vote to turn out.  These activists are claiming that they have registered over 34,000 new voters in the past six months.  Now they are busy following up to make sure that the newly registered individuals actually vote.

Joe Arpaio is not a cheap date.  Not only have the actions of Arpaio and his department literally cost the county millions of dollars, while serving as sheriff he has had a laser-focus on amassing a war chest of over $8 million for his reelection campaign.  Arpaio has declined to debate his Democratic opponent, Paul Penzone, but he has not been bashful in trashing Penzone with negative advertising.  Most of Arpaio's campaign cash has been raised outside of the state of Arizona.

Paul Penzone presents as a good man, one who could serve as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, in a competent manner.   But this election has nothing to do with Paul Penzone.  It is an electoral contest between a larger-than-life, beloved, tough sheriff - and his alter-ego.   Many are going to the polls to vote for good old Joe, and many are going to the polls to vote against a Joe whom they see as a much more sinister individual.   This election is a contest between keeping Joe or ousting Joe.  Paul Penzone is just incidental to the equation.

Arizona, get your vote on!

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