Nationally renowned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio told The Arizona Sun Times that he is “strongly considering” running for mayor in his town of Fountain Hills, located in the greater Phoenix Valley. He was defeated for reelection as Maricopa County Sheriff in 2016, when billionaire George Soros poured $2 million into the race. Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, contributed a quarter of a million dollars.
Arpaio said he wants to elevate the profile of mayors in society, just like he elevated the profile of sheriffs by becoming the most well-known sheriff in the country in the modern era. He has lived in Fountain Hills for 21 years, and has ties to the town going back 30 years due to serving as Maricopa County Sheriff and head of the Drug Enforcement Agency for Arizona. One of his goals is to attract a significant business to move to the town. The town of about 25,000 is an affluent, Republican–leaning community.
Since losing the election in 2016, he’s remained active in politics, speaking at events around the country. However, he said he can get more accomplished in office than as a grassroots activist. He attempted to run for sheriff again in 2020, but lost in the primary to a former top staffer, Jerry Sheridan. Sheridan went on to lose in the general election to the Soros-backed Democrat incumbent Paul Pezone. Arpaio next ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, losing in the primary to Martha McSally.
Arpaio made a name for himself as sheriff by cutting costs through the use of chain gangs, tents to house inmates, providing them with pink underwear so they wouldn’t steal them and display them as gang credentials, and serving inmates undyed green bologna and bread. He teamed up with former Maricopa County Sheriff Andrew Thomas to combat illegal immigration. In 2006, they helped get four initiatives passed cracking down on the problem, which passed with over 70 percent support. They prosecuted illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves, a felony. As a result, they became huge targets.
Their enemies got Thomas disbarred. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court in 2017, for which former President Donald Trump pardoned him a month later. Arpaio was an early supporter of Trump, having worked with him to discredit Barack Obama’s eligibility for office by investigating his birth certificate. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, issued the contempt order, stating that Arpaio had violated an order telling him to stop detaining illegal immigrants unless deputies had probable cause that they broke state laws unrelated to immigration. He wasn’t given a jury trial, unlike with most crimes.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey praised the pardon, “The president clearly has pardoning powers under the United States Constitution, and with this action, he has brought finality to this chapter in Arizona’s history. Sheriff Joe is my friend, and now he, Ava and their family can move on and enjoy their retirement together.”
Arpaio is 89. However, he told The Sun Times he still travels regularly to speaking engagements around the country, blessed with good health. He helped write a book about his life that came out last year, Sheriff Joe: An American Legend.
Martin Gonzales, a longtime political activist and co-host of the Chips n Salsa podcast, told The Sun Times, “Joe Arpaio’s chances of winning that race are very good. He would be very well accepted in that area, he has been wonderful all over the state. If there were any questions about his ability due to his age, it would not be about his brainpower, but about whether he could physically handle the rigors of the office. He is a very good-hearted man and a good administrator. People respect him and he would bring a lot of value to the office.”
Fountain Hills gets its name from the world’s fourth-tallest fountain located there, which was built in 1970. The current mayor of Fountain Hills is Ginny Dickey. There are no term limits for mayors and it is unknown whether she intends to seek reelection.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Joe Arpaio” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Fountain Hills” by Bernard Gagnon. CC BY-SA 2.0.