Joe Arpaio Running For Sheriff Again

Controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was voted out of office in 2016 after serving six terms in office, is running to get his old job back.

Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff who was most recently defeated in his bid for the Republican nomination for Senate last year, is running to get his old job back at the age of 87:

Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio on Sunday announced he would seek another term as sheriff of Maricopa County, two years after President Donald Trump pardoned him. He had been convicted on charges of criminal contempt related to the hard-line tactics he used to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

“After consultation and approval from my wife of 61 years, Ava, I have decided to run to be reelected Sheriff,” Arpaio said in a news release Sunday. “Watch out world! We are back!”

Arpaio — who calls himself “America’s toughest Sheriff” — pledges his reelection will bring back some of his most controversial policing tools, including Tent City — the infamous outdoor jail where inmates wore pink underwear and shuffled around in chain gangs. The facility became a symbol of Arpaio’s 24-year tenure as sheriff. Critics have said the facility was demeaning for inmates, who stayed in scorching heat and ate calorie-controlled meals.

“I will continue to stand and fight to do the right thing for Arizona and America, and will never surrender,” he said. “Those who break the law will have to deal with this Sheriff.”

Arpaio, a vocal proponent of Trump’s presidency, echoed the President’s message Sunday, stating his goal as sheriff would be to “Make Maricopa County Safe Again.” Trump pardoned Arpaio in 2017 before he was sentenced for being in contempt of court for continuing to make immigration arrests after a court ordered him to stop.

“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the White House said in a statement after Arpaio’s pardon. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is (a) worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

In 2018, Arpaio tried to leverage his national profile into an Arizona Senate run, but lost to Martha McSally in the state’s Republican primary. Still, his campaign announcement Sunday emphasized ambition beyond Arizona — stressing the need for “tough policing” across the country.

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Joe Arpaio announced on social media Sunday that he will seek another term as sheriff of Maricopa County in 2020. Arpaio previously served as the county’s sheriff for 24 years.

Arpaio noted the date of his announcement, Aug. 25, is the anniversary of the presidential pardon granted by President Trump and his wife’s birthday.

Arpaio, 87, lost the most recent election in 2016 by 13 percentage points, to Democrat Paul Penzone.

In a statement posted via Twitter, Arpaio said, “On this day, August 25, 2019, after consultation and approval from my wife of 61 years, Ava, I have decided to run to be re-elected Sheriff. Watch out world! We are back!”

He vowed to reopen the Tent City jail, reinstate his sheriff’s posse “and continue to enforce all Arizona laws that deal with drug trafficking, sex trafficking and other crimes associated with the border and illegal immigration.”

Arpaio’s 24 years in office were marked by controversy, with tens of millions of dollars in legal expenses from a racial profiling case, among other high profile incidents that had a large price tag for Maricopa County taxpayers.

Here’s Arpaio’s Tweet:

Arpaio, of course, is the former long-serving Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona who gained national attention and celebrity status on the right for his hardline position on policing and immigration. His tenure did not come without controversy, though, especially when it came to the manner in which it treated prisoners in general and Latinos in particular. He also became closely associated with Donald Trump long before Trump entered the 2016 Presidential race nearly three years ago due to his full-throated embrace of the birther conspiracy theories about former President Obama which Trump championed during his brief flirtation with the idea of running for President in 2012. In November of 2016, he was defeated in his bid for a sixth term in office, but that didn’t end the legal woes connected to his tenure in office. Last summer, Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court related to his refusal to obey orders of a Federal District Court Judge regarding the operation of his department. Shortly thereafter, President Trump pardoned Arpaio, thus sparing him from serving any jail time in connection with his sentencing.

In January of last year, Arpaio announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. While Arpaio’s candidacy did cause some concern for the GOP, with many Arizona Republicans fearing he could end up being a Roy Moore like candidate who would cause the party to lose an otherwise winnable seat, the former Sheriff ended up coming in third behind GOP nominee Martha McSally, who went on to lose a close race to Democratic nominee Kyrsten Sinema only to be appointed to the Senate several weeks later to complete the term of the late John McCain.

I’m not going to pretend to know whether Maricopa County voters might be in a mood to return Arpaio to office, although the seemingly decisive results from 2016 are pretty good evidence that they’d just as soon see him go away. That being said, Laurie Roberts at AzCentral calls Arpaio’s entrance into the race a disaster for Republicans, arguing that the decision likely guarantees the re-election of the incumbent Democratic Sheriff who defeated Arpaio three years ago.

In addition to this, though, there’s a good possibility that Arpaio’s candidacy could have an impact on other races on the ballot next November, including the expected Senate race between Senator Martha McSally and likely Democratic nominee Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, and husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. As I noted last week, a new poll of that race found Kelly leading McSally for the first time since he entered the race. Among other things, the poll found Kelly taking a lead over McSally among respondents in Maricopa County, the most populated area in the state and one that Republicans in particular cannot afford to lose if they are going to win statewide. Arpaio’s name on the ballot in the county seems likely to motivate Latino and Democratic voters to get out to the polls to vote against him. If these voters also vote against Republicans elsewhere on the ballot, it could have a significant impact on the Senate race and, potentially, the battle for the state’s 11 Electoral Votes.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jen says:

    Good grief. He is something else.

    Well, if it helps Democrats, I am all for it I guess.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The lawless and disordered candidate.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Recalling Doug’s post of a month or so ago about Republicans being grifters all the way down, I wonder if Arpaio is confident he can win, or just confident he can raise a lot of money.

  4. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: He lives fairly near to where my parents are in Arizona.

    He is a bit of an egomaniac, and I think he misses the spotlight. I don’t even think it’s about the money, it’s about the inability to relinquish the stage and notoriety.

  5. Pylon says:

    I wonder how much the pardon can even have helped Arpaio. He wouldn’t have been sentenced to jail time, he is now seen as escaping punishment, and it’s not like he’s been able to conceal or hide his conviction (like is the aim with most pardons).

    His opponent can still run on the fact he was convicted of a crime (plus his glory seeking, punitive, racist record and the fact he is 86 or so).

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Just because you’re pardoned doesn’t mean the state is absolved from paying out any damages for whatever you did in office……