Joe Arpaio Triumphant and More Wreckage from Election Night

Penzone, proving that the best man doesn't always win...
Penzone, proving that the best man doesn't always win...

Last night was 2008 all over again: Obama wins, while those of us who must live in still deeply red Maricopa County lose.

That is, those who want justice, racial and ethnic harmony, and competent, effective law enforcement.

As in 2008, we are in the minority. Though percentage-wise, we may have gained a little traction, Arpaio still pulled nearly 53 percent as of last night's count to Democrat Paul Penzone's nearly 43 percent and Republican-turned-Independent Mike Stauffer's 4.

That's 47 percent of the voters who do not like what they see in Joe, despite his mega-millions.

See also: -Joe Arpaio All-but-Declares Victory, and Immediately Declares 2016 Candidacy -Joe Arpaio Defeats Paul Penzone With Ease, and the Sheriff's Reign Continues -Election 2012: Arizona's Full Election Breakdown (Update)

There remain an untold number of provisional and early ballots left to count. When I spoke to Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell last night at the Phoenix Convention Center, where county elections had set up, she told me they would not know how many provisional and early ballots were in-house until Wednesday afternoon.

"All we know is that we have reports from the polling places that they needed more provisional envelopes," she explained of votes where an individual's registration requires verification. "A provisional ballot has to be in a provisional envelope, and they were running out of envelopes."

Earlier on election day, Purcell estimated that 100,000 early ballots would be dropped off at the polls, and she anticipated around 75,000 provisionals. She said those numbers were based on similar numbers from 2008.

At both the parties for the anti-Arpaio groups Citizens for a Better Arizona and Adios Arpaio, the latter of which registered more than 34,000 new voters this year, there were rumors of hundreds of thousands more provisionals in play, and stories of Latinos who registered but had to fill out provisionals and other hassles at the polls.

However, Penzone's advisors looked at the math and concluded that regardless of the number of early and provisionals left to count, they would have to get an overwhelming majority of what was out there, 65 percent or more.

At the Penzone party, held at the Levine Machine building near Grant and 7th Streets, the former Phoenix Police Sergeant and one-time face of Silent Witness conceded shortly before 10 p.m. I caught up to him after making the rounds at Adios Arpaio and CBA. He looked spent.

"The toughest thing for me, as I told my family many times, is that I don't want to see a person with disappointment on their face who supported me," he explained.

"Not because it's about me, because it's about this community. And I hope that they just don't lose hope. That they continue to work to make things better, and to hold [Arpaio] accountable."

 

For the victor, he had a message:

"Not to be disrespectful to the sheriff, but shame on you, that you have put your ego and your pride and things like that ahead of the needs of this community. You have a chance to rectify that. And I hope you do."

Some Penzone supporters I know of in the CBA and Adios Arpaio camps were disappointed, even angry that Penzone conceded, rather than wait for the count of the EVs and the provisionals..

But considering that Penzone was down by double-digits when the initial EV count was released last night, I think that anger is misplaced. If some miracle occurs with the remaining ballots, great. But it's delusional to expect a serious candidate to hold on indefinitely.

Also, the wash of red over the state in general, indicates that this was not our year to take down Arpaio. Penzone was a good candidate, but he was faced with a numbers game that did not favor a Democrat from jump.

In Arizona, Obama lost by nearly 12 points to Romney, as of last night's count, more than the 8.5 points by which he beat favorite son John McCain in 2008.

Democrat Rich Carmona, a candidate with a life story and a record a Republican would drool over (and many did), lost to GOP golden boy Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate race by 5 points.

And in Congressional District 9, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is just barely maintaining a lead over one of the worst Congressional candidates in recent memory, Teabagger Vernon Parker.

None of these races indicates that Penzone's loss was anything but what it was, par for the course.

It always was a David and Goliath battle with the sheriff's race, with Goliath spending millions in feel-good TV advertising and one particularly nasty attack ad.

What Penzone had raised as of the last campaign finance report, around $527,000, would be outstanding for any normal county sheriff's race.

But our David faced a national figure with a money-raising operation pulling in dough from ancient right-wingers from sea to shining sea.

And luck was not on our David's side. Penzone's primary challenge from John Rowan and the presence in the race of third-wheel goofball candidate Mike Stauffer hindered fundraising efforts.

As I reported in my October cover story on this race, many contributors were wary of putting money into a campaign where a three-way match favored the incumbent.

The only good news I can find is that the Republicans have lost their supermajority in the state legislature. The Dems didn't get the 15-15 state Senate tie they wanted. Still, they picked up seats, largely due to redisrtricting, and now have four more Senators, giving us 13 Dems to 17 Rs.

In the House, by my count, Republicans lost some ground as well, leaving a 36-24 split, advantage GOP. (Though as with all of these results, these are not final.)

So Arizona moderates, but slowly. You're not going to turn Ari-bama into Oregon any time soon. Probably not ever.

Plus, the best man, or woman, doesn't always win, as we know.

Still, that's no reason to abandon the fight. Peoples lives count on our efforts. And we have made great progress, with the backlash to Senate Bill 1070, and the recall of the the state's number one bigot, former state Senate President Russell Pearce, as well as his defeat in this year's Republican primary.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has been disbarred, and far-right-wing Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was denied a Congressional seat, when forced to withdraw his candidacy after an expose into his exploitative relationship with an undocumented Hispanic male by my colleague Monica Alonzo.

These are real accomplishments, but they are only the beginning.

And what choice do we have, but to battle on?

None, really.


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