Less than a week after a federal judge ruled that Sheriff Joe Arpaio was guilty of racial profiling, the latest effort to oust him from office has failed.
When the deadline hit Thursday afternoon, Members of Respect Arizona and Citizens for a Better Arizona–the group behind the latest recall effort–had failed to round up the 335,000 valid voter signatures they needed to get a recall election of the controversial Maricopa County sheriff.
The effort began almost immediately after Arpaio’s reelection this past November, when he won by his smallest margin since he was first elected in 2000. Recall organizers would not reveal precisely how far short they fell of the minimum, but Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for Better Arizona, told the Los Angeles Times they had collected close to 300,000 signatures.
Arpaio issued a harsh rebuke of his opponents Thursday afternoon.
“After months of name calling, after the disparaging effigies and theatrics aimed at getting media attention to include even bringing chickens and protestors to my office repeatedly, this latest recall effort has failed,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Arpaio’s supporters had complained that the recall effort was unwarranted, and another group has even filed a lawsuit against the recall group, claiming they were violating the Arizona Constitution.
It’s the second time Arpaio’s survived a recall effort. Organizers failed to gather sufficient signatures for a 2007 recall, too.
Maricopa County Sheriff has earned national headlines for his pursuit of immigrants who have arrived in the country illegally, including as recently as last week when a federal judge ruled that he and his deputies were engaging in unconstitutional racial profiling of Latinos. The judge ordered the department to immediately stop targeting Latinos based on their race.
“The court’s order is clear,” Arpaio said in the wake of the ruling. “We will no longer detain persons believed to be in the country without authorization whom we cannot arrest on state charges.”
Arpaio had been accused of racial profiling in part because of his notoriously strict enforcement of immigration law, especially Arizona’s SB 1070 (parts of which the Supreme Court knocked down), which many argued encouraged racial profiling because it allowed officers to demand documentation of anyone if they had “reasonable suspicion” that person could be in the country illegally.
The judge noted in last week’s ruling that certain traffic stops conducted by Arpaio’s deputies were made “purely on the observation of the undercover officers that the vehicles had picked up Hispanic day laborers from sites where Latino day laborers were known to gather.”
“This ruling would’ve given us a victory, really, if it would’ve come a month ago,” Lilia Alvarez, another organizer behind the recall effort, told the Christian Science Monitor.
She also said that the groups would rather see Arpaio resign in the wake of the ruling, instead of spending taxpayer money on a recall. But Arpaio doesn’t appear ready to acquiesce anytime soon, having vowed to appeal the ruling against him. Parraz said his group will pressure the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to refuse to fund an appeal.