The 2018 midterm elections are shaping up to be a referendum on President Donald Trump’s policies, and Joe Arpaio, a Senate candidate for Arizona, intends to lead the fight to support Trump.
“The president sets the tempo for the country,” said Arpaio, in conversation at the Phoenix Convention Center on March 24.
Many regard Arpaio, the 85-year-old former Maricopa County sheriff, as the toughest sheriff in the nation, while for others, he is the most controversial. Years of taking tough stances on drugs and illegal immigration have earned him both enthusiastic support and strong opposition from different groups.
However, Arpaio’s admirers and critics would likely agree on one thing: He fights hard for what he believes in.
Now, Arpaio is starting a journey he hopes will take him to Capitol Hill, where he wants to be a warrior pushing Trump’s policies through the Senate. When asked why he was so devoted to Trump, Arpaio answered without any hesitation: “Trump is my hero. I have been with him from day one, when nobody knew how to spell his name.”
While attending the Western Conservative Political Action Conference in Phoenix on March 24, Sheriff Joe, as Arpaio is called by Arizonans, was busy running his campaign and helping to sell books at the same time. While greeting his supporters, he also autographed copies of the book “The Way of the Shadow Wolves: The Deep State and the Hijacking of America.” The 221-page novel was written by Hollywood actor Steven Seagal and retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Tom Morrissey. Arpaio wrote the foreword for the book.
“I strongly identify with this book because in many ways I lived what is portrayed in its pages. During my over 26-year career in the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], … many times, although unknown to me, I had to work side by side with individuals who were actually sabotaging my efforts and even putting my life in danger. This was because they were on the payroll of the illicit drug underground,” Arpaio said.
In addition to autographing the book, Sheriff Joe also autographed his own picture for children, teens, and parents. The wallet-size picture shows Arpaio dressed in his sheriff uniform, a grey-haired grandpa with a humble smile and a shining sheriff badge on his chest. The back side of the picture says, “Be Cool…Stay in school, to be way cool and not a fool…STAY OFF DRUGS!!”
Protecting America from drugs and illegal immigration are the central platforms of Arpaio’s campaign. “Arizona, today, is and has been Ground Zero concerning illegal immigration and drug running,” he said.
Arpaio said that to solve these problems, voters need to make a change. “Who has the experience? All you have got in there in Congress are lawyers. It’s about time to get a cop in there,” he said. “When I go there [the Senate], I will make sure I spend enough time in Arizona, and I am going to open an office at the border.”
Arpario offered his ideas and solutions to a wide range of public policy issues. To deal with drug problems in schools, Arpaio suggested the nation “start bringing patriotism back to the schools. … Instead of letting kids see the pornos on their things, they need to study constitutions.”
When asked about the issue of abortion, Arpaio answered in a very soft tone: “My mother gave her life for me. I am here because of her.” Arpaio’s mother died four days after giving birth to Arpaio. He has been pro-life his entire life.
About paying respect to the national flag, he said, “I still get a thrill when hearing the national anthem and ‘God Bless America.’ I am an old guy, but I still get a thrill.”
On DACA: “I don’t believe in amnesty. I would say deport them back to their country, and let them be ambassadors like the Peace Corps. They love America, and they will go around, talk to the country they came from, and say how great America is, and learn how their own country is. They were born there, and they have the right to see their own country. Then maybe in six months get them back with green cards through a fast track.”
On the Second Amendment, Arpaio states on his campaign Facebook page: “After spending nearly my entire life in law enforcement, I know that no matter how good of a cop you are you cannot be everywhere at once to protect and defend a potential victim. In addition to allowing people to own firearms as a check against a tyrannical government, the people of this country are afforded the precious right to own a firearm to protect themselves and their property.”
Besides his strong support for Trump’s policies, another reason Arpaio’s campaign is drawing attention is that the Arizona Senate race may be crucial for Republican hopes of retaining the Senate. Republicans barely hold a majority in the Senate by a 51-49 margin.
Arpaio faces challenges in his run for Senate. After serving as sheriff of Maricopa County for 23 years, he was rejected by the voters in his 2016 reelection campaign. In July 2017, he was found guilty of contempt, a sentence that Trump pardoned one month later. The loss in his home county may signal that Arpaio’s link to Arizona voters has finally weakened, and the controversy over his contempt conviction may give pause to voters who don’t know him well.
With health care, illegal immigration, government spending, foreign trade, and other key issues at stake, Republicans cannot afford to lose their small advantage in the Senate. Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake has already announced he is not seeking reelection, and there have been rumors that Flake’s colleague, senior Senator John McCain, will also soon retire due to his health.
Therefore at least one and possibly both Arizona senate seats may be up for grabs. Some Democrats now look at Arizona, a swing state in the 2016 election, as a battleground that could possibly be turned into a Republican Waterloo this November.