Looks like there may be a new sheriff in town soon.
Anti-immigrant firebrand Joe Arpaio is trailing badly in his re-election bid for sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. The 23-year incumbent is a whopping 15 percentage points behind his challenger, Democrat Paul Penzone, the poll found.
According to the Arizona Republic, the poll was done just as respondents were learning that prosecutors would be charging Arpaio for criminal contempt of court. Officials say Arpaio refused to stop racially profiling and detaining Latinos in violation of a judge’s order. Arpaio’s department has been accused of targeting immigrants, legal as well as undocumented, for years. (The New York Times has a helpful timeline of the case.)
Arpaio’s lawyer has said he plans to plead not guilty and take the case to trial.
The recent poll suggests the charges have damaged Arpaio. When the same poll was done a week earlier, Arpaio was trailing Penzone but by a smaller margin of 10 points. In the latest poll, more than half of respondents said they view Arpaio unfavorably.
The deficit could be too steep for Arpaio to make up, despite his advantages in visibility and campaign money. The sheriff has outraised Penzone, 4 to 1, the Republic reported.
Arpaio likes to call himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” and his hard-line law enforcement tactics have made him famous around the country, including forcing inmates to wear pink underwear in an effort to humiliate them. Like Donald Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, Arpaio is a “birther” conspiracy theorist who has questioned Obama’s legitimacy as president, and he has called for the construction of a wall along the entirety of the Mexican border.
Arpaio handily won the Republican primary earlier this year, even though voters knew he could be indicted by federal officials. The contempt charge Arpaio faces is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. His lawyer has denied that Arpaio committed any wrongdoing.
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Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.