Close to 1,000 people jammed the Painter's Union Hall in Phoenix Thursday to hear the news that the recall of Sheriff Joe Arpaio so far has scored more than half the signatures required to force a recall election on the octogenarian despot.
Part rally, part seminar, the meeting was organized by the Arpaio recall group Respect Arizona, which, earlier in the day, announced that it had "less than 200,000" signatures left to gather by the May 30 deadline.
During the meeting, Respect Arizona's campaign manager Lilia Alvarez told attendees that the group now had 169,283 signatures in the bank, with 166,034 remaining to collect in the next 55 days.
She later confirmed to me that those 169,283 signatures were verified as being from qualified Maricopa County electors. She estimated that the group had collected a gross of about 20 percent more than that.
The task before Respect Arizona is doable but daunting. In the remaining 55 days, volunteer signature-gatherers will have to acquire about 3,020 signatures per day.
As intimidating a number as that may seem, if each person present in the union hall tonight were to get three to five valid signatures a day, Respect Arizona could turn in 335,317 valid signatures to county elections by the cut-off date.
Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group that recalled former state Senate President Russell Pearce, pumped up the crowd, telling them that it takes only 25 seconds on average to sign a petition.
"Twenty-five seconds for justice. Can we make that happen in Maricopa County?" asked Parraz.
The crowd responded with a roar. Parraz barreled on, as if leading a revival meeting.
"No one's going to come and do it for you. No one's going to deliver justice for you," preached Parraz. "If you all don't embrace this campaign, we lose."
Present were students who had worked on Paul Penzone's campaign for sheriff, organizers from Promise Arizona and Living United for Change in Arizona, veterans of the Pearce recall, and members of the Progressive Democrats of America.
A number of elected officials and candidates for office also were on hand, including Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, state Senator Steve Gallardo, Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, Phoenix city council candidates David Lujan and Lawrence Robinson, and state Representative Andrew Sherwood.
There also were a smattering of haters who showed up to protest the meeting, but they had decamped by the time I arrived.
Recall supporter Carolyn Cooper told me that one of the pro-Joe losers, some grizzled biker dude strapped with a pistol, tried to gain entry, posing as a pro-recall guy.
Cooper told him his gun wasn't welcome. He advised her that open carry was legal in Arizona. She advised him that he was on private property.
So the hillbilly got back on his bike and headed out.
Now if only Arpaio would exit stage left, he'd save us the trouble of recalling him.
On the other hand, where's the fun in that?
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