‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ Joe Arpaio Fails to Win Back Old Job

August 8, 2020 Updated: August 8, 2020

Former Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, who gained the moniker “America’s toughest sheriff” for his hard-line stance on illegal immigration, lost the bid to regain his old job.

The county elections department said Friday that vote tallies showed the 88-year-old Arpaio trailed his former chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, by 6,280 votes out of 443,056 ballots cast in Tuesday’s four-way Republican primary for Maricopa County sheriff.

While 2,385 ballots still remained to be counted, the interim tally effectively gave no chance for Arpaio, with 150,116 votes, to eke out a victory over Sheridan, who amassed 156,396 votes.

In 2016, Arpaio lost his re-election bid for Maricopa County sheriff, a position that he once held for 24 years. Two years later, he lost a race to fill the seat of the late Republican Senator John McCain.

Arpaio was known for his crackdown on illegal immigrants and harsh prison policies, which led to a contempt-of-court charge for continuing to make immigration arrests after a court had ordered him to stop.

President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio before sentencing, the first pardon of his presidency. Arpaio announced his intention to run for Maricopa County sheriff last August, on the two-year anniversary of Trump pardoning him.

Epoch Times Photo
Then sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) of Maricopa County, Arizona, endorses then-presidential candidate Donald Trump prior to a rally in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2016. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Arpaio, whose slogan “Make Maricopa County Safe Again!” evoked President Donald Trump’s core pitch to “Make America Great Again,” ran a campaign marked by get-tough messaging on immigration and law and order.

“Meeting supporters everyday in the Arizona heat. I will never surrender! We must make Maricopa County Safe Again!” Arpaio said in a tweet last week that showed him posing with supporters.

In his comeback bid this year, Arpaio vowed to bring back his tough-on-crime policing tactics, which once included housing county jail inmates in tents and immigration enforcement sweeps. Political strategists were said to be closely watching how receptive voters were to Arpaio’s messaging on law enforcement.

“I’m Ted Nugent and I support real American heroes and patriots because my family’s quality of life starts with law and order,” the singer-songwriter turned conservative activist said in a video in which he urged voters to throw their support behind Arpaio.

Trump has expressed support for Arpaio on many occasions.

“He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him,” the president told Fox in 2017, as he mulled the pardon that he eventually issued.

“Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe? He has protected people from crimes and saved lives,” Trump said at the time. “He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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