See also: Joe Arpaio's Favorability Rating "Falls" to (Sigh) 53 Percent See also: Mike Stauffer's Third-Wheel Bid for Sheriff May Keep Arpaio in Office See also: Sheriff Candidate Bails Out Inmate Who Claims Jail Guards Beat Him; MCSO Calls B.S. and Arrests Him Again Democratic candidate for sheriff Paul Penzone stood in the shadow of Mordor today, so to speak, to accept the endorsement of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and add it to his already impressive list of prominent backers.
"I know there are four candidates in this race," said Stanton at one point during a press conference in downtown Phoenix to announce his support for Penzone. "But...based upon my personal experience working with Paul Penzone as a Phoenix Police officer, based upon his leadership of Silent Witness, I know he is the best candidate to bring the highest level of professionalism to the sheriff's office."
Stanton's announcement was made in front of the Orpheum Theatre, almost within spitting distance of the Wells Fargo Tower, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio keeps his pricey, executive offices, offices from which Penzone wants to boot the octogenarian and his sleazy staff come this November.
That's a tall order for a newbie taking on the local, political equivalent of Godzilla: a 20 year incumbent with millions in the bank, who can boast, despite a slew of negatives, a 53 percent approval rating and name recognition approaching 100 percent, according to a recent poll commissioned by the anti-Arpaio group Citizens for a Better Arizona.
Asked about this uphill slog, Penzone acknowledged that the road to Wells Fargo Tower's 19th Floor would not be an easy one. Yet, in ticking off his campaign's accomplishments so far, it's clear Penzone has a shot.
"We just surpassed over $200,000 in fundraising, which exceeds any prior opponent to the sheriff," Penzone explained during the media event. "We have over 400 volunteers on our campaign team alone. We just surpassed over 2,000 followers on Facebook, and we have over 100 endorsements from across the Valley -- law enforcement, public servants, business owners and community leaders."
The Penzone camp has released a list of its endorsements so far. They include Democratic politicians such as former candidate for state Attorney General Felecia Rottelini, ex-Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, state Senate Minority Leader and Congressional candidate David Schapira, 2008 Arpaio opponent Dan Saban, and Corporation Commissioners Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy, among many other Ds.
But Penzone has a number of tuskers backing him as well: Phoenix entrepreneur Mac Magruder, former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton, ex-Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, and longtime community activist Donna Neil of NAILEM, the Neighborhood Activists Inter-Linked Empowerment Movement.
The other wannabe sheriffs, Republican-turned-Independent Mike Stauffer and "conservative Democrat" John Rowan, lack the resources, the support, the endorsements, and the volunteers that Penzone has.
I don't know if Penzone will be able to overcome Arpaio, but it should be apparent that he is the only credible candidate in the field, no matter how much the other Joe-foes kvetch about this reality.
Penzone will best Rowan in the August 28, Democratic primary. That's a given. But as I've already noted in a recent column, Stauffer's vanity run for sheriff is troublesome, particularly if the race turns out to be a tight one.
If Stauffer were to withdraw and throw his support to Penzone, he would be an instant hero and would maintain the goodwill he's won from many by being the first man in the race.
But if Stauffer hangs on as a sure loser and possible spoiler, such selfishness certainly will earn him near-universal disdain among the anti-Arpaio crowd.
And from Arpaio, he's likely to receive a thank-you note.
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I checked with Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne, and she tells me that because such a change would affect nearly 1.9 million voters, someone like Stauffer would have to withdraw by September 7 to ensure his name is scrubbed from the general election ballot.
Sooner would be better, she said.
People run for office for weird reasons sometimes. But if Stauffer really wants Arpaio to lose, he needs to step aside and back Penzone.
Do it, Mike. You seem like a decent guy. Now is the time to prove it.