Organizers of Arpaio Recall Vow to Continue Fight

Organizers of  Arpaio Recall Vow to Continue Fight

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PHOENIX, Az. – An effort to recall Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio fell just shy of the signatures needed before the deadline lapsed on Thursday. It’s a minor victory for America’s “toughest sheriff,” who earlier this week was found by a federal judge to have engaged in a policy of racial profiling.

Organizers of the recall effort are vowing to continue the fight.

“We won’t stop here, as you can see we have hundreds of thousands of signatures,” said Lilia Alvarez, campaign manager with the political recall committee Respect Arizona. Alvarez added that following the May 24 court decision signatures began to pour in, though they still fell short of the 335,317 signatures needed. “Despite our efforts we come short,” she said.

Volunteers at a makeshift recall camp outside the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors office worked night and day this past week in a last ditch effort to pull in more signatures.

“I wish from the bottom of my heart that this ruling would have come out a month earlier,” said state Democratic Representative Martin Quesada. “Had this ruling come a month earlier, who knows how many signatures we would have gotten.”

Arpaio has been at the center of controversy for years, most notably for his aggressive handling of undocumented immigrants, including random sweeps of local businesses and routine traffic stops of anyone deemed suspicious. Critics say the policy translated into a persecution of anyone with dark skin, an argument that U.S. District Judge Murray Snow agreed with.

Arpaio’s office has also faced allegations of abuse of power, the misallocation of over $100 million in state funds, the death of inmates and the failure to investigate over five hundred reported sex crimes against minors. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently closed the criminal investigation into the charges relating to abuse of power, but has filed a civil lawsuit over allegations of racial profiling and political retaliation against critics.

“Everybody has been held to account for all of these abuses in Maricopa County in the last several years except for Joe Arpaio,” said Chad Snow, chairman of Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group that last year recalled Senator Russell Pearce, architect of the state’s notorious anti-immigrant law SB 1070. “We are not going to rest until Joe Arpaio is either in jail or out of office.”

Snow cited a number of employees from the sheriff’s office that have been fired in connection to the abuse of power allegations and campaign financing irregularities. He also pointed to the disbarment of former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas, who at one point ran an joint anti-corruption unit with the sheriff that lead to ethics violations over the indictment and arrest of elected officials.
Arpaio issued a statement soon after the deadline for the recall lapsed.

“This effort failed because the good people of Maricopa County, whom I'm honored to serve, rejected the wrong-headed idea of overturning an election. For 21 years, I have had faith in the voters in Maricopa County. I'm grateful for all the help and support I received during this time," said the sheriff.

Critics of the movement were skeptical of the campaign's prospects for success, in part because Arpaio was re-elected to a sixth term just last year.

Supporters of the recall have countered that Arpaio won with only 50.7 percent of the vote -- his lowest margin in 20 years -- and that the election process was unfair in that the sheriff never had to answer to his critics during the campaign.

Organizers of the recall, meanwhile, described an uphill battle that included anemic funding, the need for more volunteers and a lack of willingness on the part of elected officials to voice their opposition to the sheriff.

Still, despite falling short organizers were quick to shine a light on the campaign’s success in rallying opposition.

Randy Parraz, one of the forces behind the recall campaign and co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, noted, “Close to 300,000 people had the courage to sign a recall in Maricopa County. That’s the courage we celebrate today.”

Parraz spoke to a group of supporters Thursday afternoon outside the Board of Supervisors office, where he took the opportunity to call on county leaders to take a stand against the sheriff.

“The question is, where do you stand on this issue,” he said.

Parraz said his organization plans to oppose any use of county funding to support an upcoming appeal by Arpaio, who has promised to try and overturn the federal ruling. The group will look to put pressure on the Board of Supervisors, which holds the purse strings around Arpaio’s budget.

“We don’t want to see one penny or dime go to the appeal of this decision,” Parraz said.

Alvarez with Respect Arizona said the group would refrain from turning in the signature petitions they collected to protect those who signed them from retaliation by the sheriff’s office, as well as to avoid expenses to the county for a verification process that won’t be needed.