Joe Arpaio — What Recalls Were Invented to Remedy


Posted by Bob Lord

[My friends at Down With Tyranny just posted this piece I wrote, but I thought I'd post it here as well.] 

Progressives across America have a rare opportunity.

Joe Arpaio, the megalomaniacal sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, is the face of racism in America today. He is facing a well-organized recall campaign. Arpaio has been elected six times, dating back to 1992, by raising zillions of dollars from right-wing ideologues and using the funds to play to the fears of Maricopa’s conservative population base, particularly the fearful senior citizens in the retirement communities west of Phoenix, while smearing his opponents with horrifically deceitful ads. But each election has been a tougher sell for Arpaio than the one before. Last November, he squeaked by with 50.7% of the vote.

I’d need a few hundred paragraphs even to summarize all of Arpaio’s vicious acts as Sheriff. The Phoenix New Times has printed dozens of full-length articles exposing his depraved actions over the years, which range from stripping prisoners of all human dignity and forcing them to exist on food I would not give to my dogs, to flagrantly violating Arizona’s campaign laws, to diverting virtually all resources to immigrant harassment while failing to investigate the rape and molestation of women and children in El Mirage, to illegally misspending $100 million of taxpayer funds, to costing Maricopa County $70 million in successful lawsuits filed against it, to illegally harassing and intimidating his political opponents, to unconscionably and systematically engaging in practices fully intended to tear apart the County’s Latino community and inflict as much misery as humanly possible. Perhaps the best summation of Arpaio is that he once said it was an honor to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan.

So, could this public menace, this scourge on our society, be removed from office through Arizona’s recall process? Is this a cause worth fighting for?

Enter Randy Parraz, labor leader, community organizer, civil rights activist, and progressive hero. In 2011, Parraz decided it was time for Russell Pearce, author of Arizona’s infamous SB1070 and close Arpaio ally, to go. Pearce was no easy target. As the representative of a deep red district and President of the State Senate, Pearce had power and money on his side. When Randy approached me for help, I said “Randy, you’re f*$%ing crazy, but I’ll help you anyhow.” Well, Randy wasn’t crazy. He was whip smart, with energy to match. He succeeded against all odds. Russell Pearce was the first leader of a State Senate in U.S. history to be recalled. And when he ran in the 2012 election, he was beaten again.

Randy has made it his mission to recall Arpaio. This time, I’m betting Randy can succeed, as long as he gets the financial help. So, will he get the help?

Arpaio’s recall should be a cause for progressives not just in Arizona, but nationally. Even if you’re not sufficiently moved by the need to stop Arpaio from inflicting more misery on Maricopa County’s minorities, you should be behind this as a strategic initiative for several reasons. First, the process of recalling Arpaio will be productive, even if the signature goal is not reached or Arpaio survives the recall election. Successful or not, the recall effort means hundreds of signature gatherers going to door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods registering new voters. Successful or not, the recall effort means causing Arpaio’s right-wing donors to burn through cash at a rate in excess of ten dollars for every dollar spent on the recall effort. Successful or not, the recall effort means a light is shone on Arpaio’s corruption far more intensely than it ever has been shone before.

Of course, the rewards of an unsuccessful recall effort pale in comparison to those of a successful recall effort, a goal I believe is well within reach. If the recall succeeds, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will be freed from Arpaio’s harassment and intimidation. If the recall succeeds, the budget of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be used to fight crime for the first time in 20 years. If the recall succeeds, a clear message will be sent to every Arpaio wannabe, both inside and outside Arizona. If the recall succeeds, persecuted groups nationwide will be emboldened to stand up and fight their oppressors. If the recall succeeds, Randy Parraz will be thrust onto the national stage. For those who seek real change, one Randy Parraz easily is worth about 100 mealy-mouthed, contribution-driven, self-absorbed Congressional Reps.

Can this effort succeed? Absolutely. The trend line shows Arpaio doing worse in each election. Projecting out one more election (the recall) he’ll be below 50%. And the dynamics of a recall could be far less favorable for him than his previous elections. Unlike past Arpaio campaigns, he won’t be a down ballot race in a Presidential year, so his antics will receive far more scrutiny, the coattail effect will be eliminated, and the cost of ad time for his opponent will be far lower. More significantly, recall election candidates in Arizona do not face primaries– they go straight to the general. If Arpaio is forced to face a sane Republican one on one, the way Pearce had to in 2011, he’s toast. So, yes, this effort can succeed.

As long as Randy Parraz gets the financial help he needs.

This one is not a brainer. Anyone who wants to help can go here for more information.


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    You’re absorbing information quite selectively, my friend. When Arpaio’s inhumane treatment of inmates resulted in deaths, the County was sued, successfully, for tens of millions in damages. The cost of harassing immigrants is that it diverts resources from law enforcement. Hence the tragic neglect of domestic violence cases, including unsolved murders, in El Mirage. And the savings achieved by feeding prisoners food you wouldn’t give to your dog is trivial. Arpaio’s treatment of prisoners isn’t about saving money, it’s about the depravity of stripping prisoners of all human dignity just because he can. Lionize the guy if you want, but to say you’re out of touch in doing so would be to say it gets a bit chilly in Alaska in the winter.

  2. I’m sorry, This man has done more for its citizens than any other elected person in his class. He saved the hard working people tax hikes and is diciplining criminals. If you are a criminal you should have less rights than the people working supporting the jail system with our tax dollars. Hes going after criminals. Hes not going after anyone thats Legal. Elect the other guy and now the state cant pay its bills because we are feeding them FREE steak meals and FREE recliners, FREE workout equipment, FREE air conditioning. How come prisoners / Criminals deserve a better life than the working class? You all are just looking for a job, and to do so, you are willing to bankrupt america with your worthless spending. Prosecute the Criminals, live within your budget and use common sense. I think the man has a excellent grasp on how criminals should be treated, then they might not be a criminal again when they serve their time. He’s a saint compared to anyone in congress. There are more criminals in congress with DUI’s and unpaid taxes, etc in office than there ever should be. Leave the man alone. This should be done nation wide, he’s doing a great job.

  3. If winning the election were the end of the story then the folks that added the Arizona recall provisions would have gone home prior to adding them to the Arizona constitution. If you don’t like it then you might, just might, want to move to a state with no provisions for the recall of elected officials.. or not.

  4. Wether you like it or not he won the election. WE THE PEOPLE have spoken and now you need to listen to what they said. If you don’t like it then move elsewhere where your ears can be tickled with what you want to hear.

  5. I took a minute to look at the actual legal document and pull out the actual wording on the recall document because I believe that words matter:

    “We, the qualified electors of the electoral district from which Joseph Arpaio, Maricopa County Sheriff, was elected, demand his recall. The grounds of this demand for recall are as follows:

    We, members of Respect Arizona and citizens of Maricopa County, petition to recall Sheriff Joseph Arpaio. We believe Sheriff Arpaio has failed to fulfill his duties as Maricopa County’s top law enforcement official. We believe Sheriff Arpaio has violated our trust and dignity as citizens because too many people have suffered as a result of Sheriff Arpaio’s abusive practices and policies. We believe business owners should not be unfairly harassed, workers unlawfully detained and families unjustly torn apart. We believe too many lawsuits have been filed and too many lives have been lost. We believe our children deserve a Sheriff that respects families, immigrants and Latinos. We believe Sheriff Arpaio should respect, defend and protect the rights guaranteed under the US Constitution because no one – not even a Sheriff – is above the law. No election victory can excuse or make right the unlawful acts that have occurred under Sheriff Arpaio’s leadership. By signing this petition, we, the people, publicly withdraw our support for Sheriff Joseph Arpaio and what he represents.”

    I’ve heard from a few friends that recall petitioners are out and about in Tempe.

  6. In total agreement with the sentiments on this. It’s well past time to get this Albinosaur out of the county sheriff’s office. However, who is going to run against him should it come to an election? Time to start beating the bushes for ONE strong candidate or the wannabees will divide and give it back to the cretin-in-chief.