Posse Galore

Staking out Maricopa County's wildest political race -- to unseat Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Last year, Cozzolino was investigated by sheriff's deputies for allegedly making death threats against Joe Arpaio. Cozzolino says the investigation was politically motivated. No charges were filed.

Cozzolino did admit, however, that he has sent Arpaio disparaging e-mails, one of which read:

"Hey BOZO NOSE, Let's see, you have a puppy posse, a pussy posse . . . you should start a Dick Posse . . . and you can be the BIG DICK you are in charge. You're an idiot . . . and a waste of tax payers [sic] money."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to the media in front of his home last July about an alleged attempt on his life.
courtesy of KTVK-TV
Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to the media in front of his home last July about an alleged attempt on his life.

"It's going to take more than that idiot Les to keep you out of harm's way," Cozzolino wrote in a recent e-mail to Bearup.

"That wasn't a physical threat," Cozzolino says. "Les is doing Bearup's investigations, and Les is a fucking idiot. That's what I meant."

Cozzolino admits he could tone down his e-mails and "let go of some of the anger." Cozzolino is a passionate man with deep convictions, Wooten says. He says Cozzolino simply wants a fair and just sheriff for Maricopa County.

Ayala's supporters and Bearup's supporters also have traded accusations and epithets on the Web site, www.arpaio.com, which was established by Arpaio's detractors as a clearinghouse for information about abuses in the sheriff's office. The cyber brawl between Bearup's and Ayala's camps became so intense on the site that the site's manager, Nancy Medlock, had to post a message two weeks ago begging the candidates to stop attacking each other.

"ARPAIO.com. In case you haven't noticed, that is the name of this website," she wrote. "It is not COZ.com, BEARUP.com, AYALA.com or ROBERTSON.com. It was set up to get information out on ARPAIO and his administration. We made a few simple requests. We asked that you stick to the subject and that personal attacks not be posted. Many of the posters are continuing to ignore those requests. If it is your choice to do so, then it is my choice to shut the site down. Yes, that means letting Joe and Company win. But that appears to be what most of you want. The choice is yours."

Ayala says that if Robertson wins the primary, he will engage only "in a gentleman's race" with Robertson.

Bearup, too, promises a gentleman's race with Robertson.

Robertson promises a gentleman's race, too, if he survives the primary.

If Robertson doesn't win the primary, expect the battle between Arpaio, Bearup and Ayala to be anything but gentlemanly.

And ultimately, those viewing this race from outside believe that's what's going to happen. Both consultant Bob Grossfeld and ASU's Richard Herrera believe Robertson is offering too little opposition too late against too big of a publicity juggernaut.

And Grossfeld believes Arizona's early voting laws may have already sunk Robertson. Grossfeld estimates that 50 percent of the Republican primary votes will be cast through mail ballots, and Robertson may have mobilized too late to penetrate that bloc of voters. And he estimates that, as of right now, most of those Republican ballots have been mailed back in.

"It sounds like they started too late," Grossfeld says.

And even if Robertson did reach the voter's doorstep, Herrera isn't sure what he has to say would have an impact.

"They are substantial issues," he says, "but I'm just not convinced the electorate is concerned with those issues."

Still, the opposition plugs on. And against most every indicator, the opposition has faith that the people will finally see beyond the grand myth Arpaio and his publicists have created.

"We are going to win this," Robertson says. "The people are not going to fall for his carnival anymore.

"The people are not stupid."

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