On Friday morning, Arpaio's friend Carlo Oddo texted Marc Bretz, a partner at a conservative political firm, about the Republican's potential election campaign.
"Hey it's Carlo from sheriff's [sic] Joe's office. Sheriff is thinking of running for Sheriff again. If so he would love to [sic] if you'd be interested in helping in the Campaign?" Oddo said in a text to Bretz, who forwarded the messages to Phoenix New Times.
Bretz responded: "Hey Carlo! Hope you're well! Is he thinking about hiring us on as a consultant?"
Bretz declined the offer, saying, "I appreciate it Carlo! But I'm gonna have to pass on this race. Please give the Sheriff my best."
Reached on his cell phone, Arpaio denied asking Oddo to reach out to Bretz. The name, Arpaio said, didn't ring a bell.
"He may have been one of my supporters in other races," he mused.
Arpaio did acknowledge that he is considering throwing his hat in the ring for his old seat, which he lost in 2016 to Democrat Paul Penzone.
"I am talking to people that would help me make a decision," the former sheriff said. "I'm not keeping a secret that I'm thinking of it, but I haven't made a decision."
During a phone call, Oddo initially declined to confirm the authenticity of the text messages. When read his messages back to him, Oddo said: "Pretty accurate, but my name can't be in the paper."
Oddo described himself as a "neighbor friend of Joe" who sometimes sends text messages on the 87-year-old's behalf.
"He doesn't know how to text, but if he ever needs to text, I text for him," Oddo said. "He still uses a flip phone, so he'll ask me to send a text for him."
Bretz said he leaked the texts to New Times out of concern for his party.
"We need someone who can unseat Sheriff Penzone," he said. "If Joe runs again, he'll cost us the election. There are plenty of qualified, good people who are considering running that doesn't have the baggage that he does."
Asked whether he's working for another sheriff candidate, Bretz said, "Not at this time."
On Sunday, two days after New Times reached out to Arpaio about the texts, Bretz forwarded another screenshot showing that the former sheriff had blocked him on Twitter.
During his 24 years as Maricopa County Sheriff, Arpaio become a national figure over his embrace of racial-profiling and administration of cruel jail conditions, including the infamous "tent city" that even he described as a "concentration camp." Civil-rights violations under Arpaio's watch have cost Maricopa County hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and the former sheriff left his office in disgrace.
Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court in 2017, but was later pardoned by President Donald Trump. He ran for Senate in 2018, coming in last among three candidates during the Republican primary.
If Arpaio does decide to run for sheriff again, his only declared competitor in the Republican party would be Gerald Sheridan, his former second-in-command. Sheridan, like his old boss, was also connected to the racial-profiling case that thrust Maricopa County into the national spotlight and led a federal judge to find him in civil contempt of court.
In addition to name recognition, Arpaio still has $463,140 of unused campaign funds, according to Maricopa County records.
At least one pro-Arpaio billboard with murky origins has recently appeared in the Valley metro area.