Stauffer points out that the chase was over before the box-in was used. And, as was reported at the time, the children were not injured during the chase or the crash.

Stauffer says he would handle the situation exactly the same way if he had to do it again.

"I knew that there was going to be some question about what I did do," he tells me. "I went by what I knew and what my experience was . . . I was doing a worst-case scenario kind of thing with this situation.

"I'd much rather get a letter of reprimand for a policy violation than have to live with the fact that I let three kids get killed by somebody who I thought might have been unbalanced."

I can appreciate that there are judgment calls in police work, as well as in politics. Whatever you conclude about Stauffer's judgment from the 2011 incident, no one was hurt because of it.

But will that be the case when it comes to his decision to double-down on a candidacy that lacks significant financial or volunteer support?

Stauffer would have us believe that he can best Arpaio in a three-man race by using social and earned media.

Penzone's camp argues that it can prevail over Joe, despite Stauffer's commitment to stay in the race. That's assuming Penzone gets past his self-funding primary rival, John Rowan.

Can Joe be beaten? Sure. In 2008, Dan Saban, running as a Democrat, scored 42 percent of the final tally, with more than a half-million votes to his name.

Keep in mind that Saban's campaign was hobbled by a lack of money, Arpaio's smear tactics, and a Democratic Party that abandoned Saban after persuading him to jump sides and leave the GOP to Joe.

Even with all his dough, the sheriff's more vulnerable this year than he was in 2008. Mano-a-mano, a solid candidate could smoke him.

What we don't know now is whether Stauffer's third-wheel candidacy will be the deciding factor in the sheriff's race. After all, a Libertarian ran for sheriff in 2008, but pulled a little more than 35,000 votes, not enough to have made up the difference between Saban and Arpaio.

If Stauffer's effect on the race is negligible, the negative results are Stauffer's alone to shoulder (i.e., his early retirement and a wad of cash blown on a vanity campaign).

But if the votes Stauffer pulls could have helped Penzone top Arpaio, Stauffer will get the blame, and we'll get another four years of brutality, incompetence, and abuse of power.

Which hardly seems fair. Unless, of course, you're Joe.

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