Could Arpaio’s Endorsement Hurt Perry?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Photo: Dan De Vivo)

PHOENIX, Arizona—An endorsement from “America’s Toughest Sheriff” may not be worth as much as it used to in the past.

A famous hard-liner on illegal immigration, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Tuesday launched a storm of media coverage nationwide.

But locally, members of a citizen group that helped recall one of the sheriff’s closest allies from office say much is to do about nothing.

“Sheriff Arpaio’s endorsement could not even save his good friend and author of SB 1070, Russell Pearce, from becoming the first Senate President to be recalled in the history of the United States,” stated Randy Parraz, President of Citizens for a Better Arizona.

Arpaio’s endorsement was highly sought after by other Republican candidates including Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. But it was Perry who needed it the most to prove to voters that he could take a stance on border security after his support for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants turned off some conservatives.

Perry has tried to move away from that persona and distinguish himself from other candidates like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who argued during a debate on Homeland Security that immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time shouldn’t be separated from their families.

“I’m endorsing Rick Perry because we need a tough-on-crime president who will champion and fund full-time border security operations from Brownsville to San Diego. Governor Perry has a superior border security record and plan to make our border and our nation safer,” said Arpaio in a statement released by the Perry campaign.

Does it mean anything, or is it just a desperate move by Perry?

Parraz said that Arpaio is not as popular as he used to be and he doubts that he is as famous as he thinks out of state to be drawing any significant political clout for Perry.

“If you think about it, it’s humorous. He should be here, he shouldn’t be going out campaigning for someone from out state,” said Parraz. “He should focus in Maricopa County especially with the issues of misspending.”

Parraz’s group has Arpaio in its crosshairs. They’re hoping to keep him from getting re-elected for the sixth time in 2012.

Citizens for a Better Arizona cites that Arpaio has wasted over $100 million in taxpayers funds–according to a county investigation–that were destined for jails, and instead spent them on immigration sweeps and a special anti-corruption unit that led to a federal grand jury investigation on abuse of power by his agency.

If anything, some argue that it’s Arpaio who stands to benefit by aligning himself with Perry, who in the past supported measures to help undocumented immigrants get in-state tuition in universities and opposed SB 1070. It could be his bid to survive in the new, post SB-1070, post-Russell Pearce-recall Arizona.

“Sheriff Arpaio is now saying that support for SB 1070 or even providing a pathway to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants–what those on the right refer to as AMNESTY–should not be the deciding factors when determining who should be our next president,” stated Chad Snow, Chairman of CBA.

Perry might want “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but it’s not clear that Arizona does anymore.

Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Sirus Fund.  Feet in Two Worlds podcasts are supported in part by WNYC, New York Public Radio.

AboutValeria Fernández
Valeria Fernández is an independent journalist from Uruguay with more than a 14 years experience as a bilingual documentary producer and reporter on Arizona’s immigrant community and the US-Mexico borderlands. She co-directed and produced "Two Americans,” a documentary that parallels the stories of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a 9-year-old U.S. citizen whose parents were arrested by the sheriff’s deputies that aired in Al Jazeera America. Her work as reporter for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting on the economic and social impacts of a mine spill in Northern Mexico broadcast in PBS, San Diego and won an Arizona Press Club recognition for environmental reporting in 2016. She freelances for a number of print, digital and broadcast media outlets, including Feet in 2 Worlds, CNN Español, Radio Bilingue, PRI's Global Nation, Al Jazeera, and Discovery Spanish.