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What the Devil won't tell you

Avoiding horror of Apocalypse Arpaio will require his Senate foes to play mean

Urge to downplay 'Toughest Sheriff's' bid involves a very short memory

Am I dreaming or is Joe Arpaio running for U.S. Senate?

I mean, that happened, right? He said it, correct? I ask because it's the kind of news that usually precedes me bass fishing with LeBron James and Hoss Cartwright.

I keep pinching myself and seeing things that seem to indicate I'm conscious, so he's running for the upper chamber.

There's a time for heightened discourse and there's a time to eliminate the threat. Arpaio's rivals need to be ready to hit him hard and hit him fast so the worst person elected in Arizona political history doesn't infect the U.S. Senate.

A lot of people are going to indulge the instinct to laugh off Arpaio. That kind of conventional wisdom reminds me of how I was told by people "smarter than me" that Raul Grijalva couldn't win because he was too liberal. (I won't even mention the current leader of the executive branch.) Voters have a way of making the smart set look like they need to wear helmets.

Arpaio joins former U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, expected to announce her bid this week, and former state Rep. Kelli Ward, who thought she was running as the pro-Trump alternative and instead may find herself a superfluous option. When it comes to being Donald Trump's kid, no one is going to suck up to Trump more than Arpaio. He's a free man because the president pardoned the criminally convicted former Maricopa County sheriff.

McSally is offering herself as the sane choice — and that's no longer safe in Republican politics. We are living in the “I'm-Not-A-Witch” Age that has the GOP electorate telling the media, “I mean it! I'll do it!”

Now I've been saying 2018 could be a wave year since before it was cool but any blanket declarations about what will happen as of right now are more based in hopes than foresight. November is a long way off and who knows what will happen between now and then.

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Arpaio can win but that's not the same as saying "he will win." He's a leading conservative rock star running for office in a red state. It's no more complex — or frightening — than that. He can win the Republican primary and Democrats have lost their last eight campaigns for the U.S. Senate in this state. That's an O-fer 30 years.

A poll released on the day of Arpaio announced — so God only knows how accurate it is — by KNXV in  Phoenix showed McSally in a dead heat with Arpaio and Ward trailing both. McSally can take heart in that. Pre-pardon, Arpaio would likely be running away with it and because McSally's name recognition is not where it will be when she unleashes millions of dollars on the airwaves.

On the other hand, the monster is still politically alive. Someone better do something about that, Martha McSally.

Arpaio's run toward glory will be greatly aided if his opponents get thrown off by his celebrity and are lulled into complacency by his legal woes. The guy who holds the seat now questions whether Arpaio's candidacy is even real.

“I don't think he's in it for the long haul,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake told Chuck Todd on MSNBC.

I get the urge. The smart money says he is just raising money for his legal defense or that he's not serious and has no support among the apparatchniks in the GOP. He's a charlatan and narcissist, who just wants attention. He has an emotional connection to the GOP base but those Republicans will vote their heads. He's got way too much baggage. He's claimed he was running for higher office before, and never has.

He'll never beat Jeb Bush. Oops. Sorry. That was someone else.

I'm willing to wager the bulk of voters think Arpaio is just a hard-line law-and-order publicity hound who got into trouble for being too zealous. They don't know about the rest of his record, from illegally arresting journalists for reporting on him to squandering $60 to $80 million or more, not to mention actually staging an "assassination attempt" on himself to win an election.

They're not going to know without a whole bunch of gross ratings points behind a massive ad buy.

Initiative question

I can hear Republicans gaming it out. “Look, if we go negative on Arpaio, we'll piss off his voters and we need his voters to turn out in the general election and we don't want to provoke Trump to endorse his old buddy in an act of loyalty. Arpaio's gonna split the Tea Party vote with Ward and we'll coast to a victory in the primary. Don't worry about it.”

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This possible future assumes two things I'm loathe to take as gospel: 1) Arpaio and Ward are of equal billing in the eyes of the Republican base and 2) that base believes Arpaio was anything but a victim of a system trying to push illegal immigrants on America.

If it goes down this way, then McSally is the obvious winner. She can just let Ward and Arpaio beat the snot out of each other and raise boatloads of cash to take on the likely Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

Then again, that lets Arpaio control the landscape. He can either take down Ward or McSally. He gets to decide what's what. Why give him the option? He's made a career of being aggressive against his enemies and sticking it to the squishes who believe in the Constitution and honest-to-God justice. Ward could be an afterthought for a guy who knows the spotlight he craves follows the front-runner.

A Murderer's Row of the far right is lining up against McSally as a weak tool of the establishment. Who is better situated to cash in on Team Trump's sense of aggrievement? Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio? Who has access to more national money? Will the GOP base follow its head or its heart?

The answers are clear to anyone who has been paying attention. The alt-right is an emotional lot and McSally will never be their woman.

Lucky for her, there's a better way. To quote my favorite movie ever: “Terminate his command … terminate with extreme prejudice.”

Blood thy sword, congresswoman

McSally should smoke Arpaio like a cheap blunt.

Will Ward and Arpaio take each other out? Who will Trump endorse? Is Arpaio even serious?

Who cares? Dominate what you can control, congresswoman, and ignore what you don't.

She can look at his poll numbers and say to him, “That's all you got, punk? Let's you and me tango.”

McSally is more than ready for trench warfare against Sinema and there's no reason she can't blood her sword first on Arpaio. He's a law and order hypocrite, who sentenced offenders under his care to moldy sandwiches but thinks he deserves a seat in the U.S. Senate. He's a swamp monster in waiting who owes his very freedom to crony politics. Her oppo research need go no further than my columns on the guy or a single New Yorker article. It's all out there and voters are only vaguely aware of the sheer tonnage. McSally can throat punch him and then not stop until he's a puddle of his former self.

Conservatives dig strength. She can stun the party into following her if she smashes Arpaio to bits right there in front of them. Please explain when the last time a candidate lost an election because they were too aggressive.

U.S. Sen. John McCain took down J.D. Hayworth in 2010. He didn't screw around. The maverick may have disavowed maverick-i-ness but he took after Hayworth with a meat axe (remember the classic “Huckster” ad?).

Mission for the Red Team

If McSally doesn't get him, I have a lot of faith that Sinema will.

Mid-term elections are all about turnout and nothing will turn out every single left of center voter like Arpaio's cranky face talking smack to the camera.

Democratic turnout would red line with Trump and Arpaio on the ballot. Republican women in Alabama couldn't forgive Roy Moore for apparently dating teenagers, even if the information came from the liberal media.

Arpaio has a much bigger problem because he was the top law enforcement guy in Maricopa County and, according to the Goldwater Institute, the Associated Press and the East Valley Tribune, didn't see sex crimes as real crimes. He employed a bigger PR staff than he did detectives whose job it was to investigate the sexual assault of little girls, letting hundreds of cases languish without a glance.

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That's not a left-wing smear. That's from the Goldwater Institute's Clint Bolick, who now sits on the Arizona Supreme Court and authored a deep dive into Arpaio's office.

I just trust Team Red to play mean better than I trust Team Blue to get down and dirty.

The prospect of referring to America's Most Shameless Sheriff as U.S. Sen. Joe Arpaio, R-Ariz., is too much to contemplate.

I keep hearing Marlon Brando whisper: “The hor-ror … the hor-ror ...” Or was it President Jeb Bush?

Blake Morlock is a journalist who spent 17 years covering government in Arizona and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 4 »

4
531 comments
Jan 11, 2018, 4:28 pm
-0 +1

Maricopa County taxpayers spent roughly $92 million on court settlements, awards, and legal bills during Arpaio’s 24 years as sheriff, The Arizona Republic calculated. Of that, $28 million was paid for “legal matters listed as civil-rights violations, false arrest, conspiracy and malicious prosecution.” And $30 million was spent on lawsuits stemming from the county’s jails.

New Times has reported scores of stories about egregious abuse and misconduct by sheriff’s employees inside the jails. Among them is a 1997 story about Richard Post, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, who suffered a broken neck when corrections officers strapped him in a restraint chair for six hours. A decade later, Ambrett Spencer was pregnant with a baby girl while an inmate in Maricopa County jail. Suffering severe pain, Spencer waited four hours for the jail to transfer her to a hospital. Her daughter, Ambria, died of internal bleeding before she was delivered. Pregnant women were in significant peril in Arpaio’s jails. From the New Times: “The water well in the facility where pregnant women are jailed has been infested with mice and mice feces since 2005, Maricopa County Environmental Health Services Records show.”

The sheriff’s office effectively entrapped an inmate in a fake plot to assassinate Arpaio, for which the agency purchased bomb parts, as told in an exhaustive Phoenix Magazine narrative. The inmate was acquitted at trial and later won a million-dollar legal settlement.

[url=http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/082917_arpaio_history/pardon-aside-reporters-have-built-long-rap-sheet-joe-arpaio/]http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/082917_arpaio_history/pardon-aside-reporters-have-built-long-rap-sheet-joe-arpaio/
[/url]

3
531 comments
Jan 11, 2018, 4:25 pm
-0 +2

In a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, the East Valley Tribune in 2008 detailed problems with rape and other violent crime cases under Arpaio’s watch. On Sunday, the Associated Press followed with an article detailing sex abuse cases involving young children that Arpaio’s office left incomplete. ...

The sheriff’s office confirms that from 2005 to 2007, its special victims unit failed to investigate 432 alleged sex crimes. Detectives improperly closed more than 200 of those investigations as though they’d been solved. 

http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/121111_apaio_sex_crimes/new-sex-crime-arises-after-arpaio-fails-investigate-alleged-rape/

2
531 comments
Jan 11, 2018, 4:23 pm
-0 +2

What you missed:

I’m willing to wager the bulk of voters think Arpaio is just a hard-line law-and-order publicity hound who got into trouble for being too zealous. They don’t know about the rest of his record, from illegally arresting journalists for reporting on him to squandering $60 to $80 million or more, not to mention actually staging an “assassination attempt” on himself to win an election.

He was the top law enforcement guy in Maricopa County and, according to the Goldwater Institute, the Associated Press and the East Valley Tribune, didn’t see sex crimes as real crimes. He employed a bigger PR staff than he did detectives whose job it was to investigate the sexual assault of little girls, letting hundreds of cases languish without a glance.

That’s not a left-wing smear. That’s from the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick, who now sits on the Arizona Supreme Court and authored a deep dive into Arpaio’s office.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaking at the Phoenix Convention Center before a speech by then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

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