In the race for Maricopa County sheriff, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his former deputy chief, Jerry Sheridan, were virtually tied in a four-way race in the Republican primary.
Mike Crawford trails the leading two candidates by 10 percentage points, early voting results show.
Write-in candidate Lehland Burton is far back, in fourth place.
Penzone, a Democrat, is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Maricopa County has one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the nation, with about 3,300 employees, including deputies, jail guards and civilian workers.
Penzone defeated Arpaio to become sheriff in 2016.
ELECTION RESULTS:See who won in Arizona’s August primary election
For the past seven years, a federal monitor has overseen changes in the Sheriff’s Office after a judge ruled that deputies under Arpaio had racially profiled Hispanic people during neighborhood raids meant to target undocumented immigrants.
The court order stems from a lawsuit in which deputies had turned over a day laborer who was in the country legally to immigration officials.
The judge found that Arpaio’s immigration policies violated the rights of Hispanic people and ordered sweeping overhauls to the agency’s policies. A monitor was appointed to oversee the compliance efforts, which are expected to last for years to come.
Arpaio and Sheridan, who worked under Arpaio for most of his career, were found in civil contempt of court for allowing deputies to continue immigration raids after a judge told the office to stop.
Arpaio was charged and later found guilty of contempt of court.
Before he was sentenced, President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio.
Arpaio has tried to make a political comeback ever since he lost to Penzone. In 2018, he ran for Congress, losing the Republican primary in a three-way race against Martha McSally and Kelli Ward.
Arpaio has far outraised other candidates in the sheriff’s race, with most of his donations coming from outside of Arizona.
If elected, Arpaio said he would enforce immigration laws again, something the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office can’t do because of the federal court order.
He has decried those who label him as racist, pointing to his grandchildren, one of whom he says is Black and another who is Hispanic, as an example that he is not racist.
Arpaio has blamed the judge’s order and his contempt of court verdict as reasons why he lost to Penzone.
He said if he wins the general election, he plans to continue a lot of the same policies he implemented during his 23 years in office.
“I’m going to continue everything I did in the past because my people, my bosses liked it,” Arpaio said, referring to the people who voted for him.
Sheridan said, if elected, he would not do patrols in Hispanic neighborhoods as Arpaio did. However, he would have the Sheriff’s Office partner with immigration officials to identify people in the country illegally who have committed a crime, he said.
But, he said, Congress should reform immigration laws to help immigrants legally come to the U.S. If Congress did that, he said, the county wouldn’t have to deal with illegal immigration.
As for being found in contempt of court in 2016, Sheridan said he was unaware of the judge’s order at the time it came out. He said a lot of other issues were going on at the time and because of his job duties, he prioritized those.
Investigators didn’t buy his claim.
Even though he was not charged like Arpaio, a judge had still ruled Sheridan was also in contempt of court. Independent investigators stated in a 2019 report related to the racial-profiling case that they would have recommended Sheridan be fired if he hadn’t retired after Arpaio lost his 2016 reelection campaign.
Sheridan, like Arpaio, has said he would bring back a version of Tent City. In his first year as sheriff, Penzone tore down the outdoor jail saying it was a “circus,” that didn’t actually deter people from committing crimes and to save taxpayers money.
Crawford, who started his law-enforcement career as a deputy for the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico, said he decided to run after he saw who had declared to run for the office.
He said that even though he may have similar views as his Republican candidates, he is the only one who currently works as an officer.
“I lead from the front, and not from behind a desk,” he said.
He said, if elected, he would make sure the Sheriff’s Office came into full compliance with the court’s order. The order is not about politics but about following the law, he said.
“Agree or not, it’s a fact,” Crawford said. “I would cooperate with the order completely and use it as a baseline. The Sheriff’s Office has to come with full compliance.”
He said he would not do immigration-related patrols like Arpaio but he would cooperate with immigration officials and let them handle immigration enforcement.
Burton, a Mesa security guard, said he didn’t expect to win as a write-in candidate.
Still, he said, he was in the race because his platform deals with systemic racism in police departments. He said he wanted to make police brutality and police corruption a focal point.
“My platform has always been the same, to investigate and get rid of corrupt law enforcement,” he said. “And protect minorities of police abuse.”
Penzone was elected sheriff with help of immigrant advocates, but he’s been at odds with some of them during his nearly four years in office.
Advocates have wanted him to stop allowing immigration agents in his jails who screen inmates for immigration status. As a result, pretrial inmates have been deported.
Penzone has defended the policy, saying it’s a public safety measure and not a partisan issue.
During the COVID-19 era, the same advocates have criticized Penzone’s handling of the spread of the virus among inmates and jail guards.
Advocates also have criticized how he handled the court orders related to Arpaio’s racial profiling case. A recent report found that Hispanic and Black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be held longer or searched by deputies during traffic stops.
During his first term, Penzone has dismantled some of Arpaio’s legacy, including Tent City.
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