Sheriff Joe Arpaio's political stock isn't exactly at an all-time high here in Maricopa County, what with ongoing probes by the U.S. Department of Justice -- and reportedly the F.B.I. as well --into his department, a big racial profiling lawsuit being pursued against him in federal court, and the backlash from local political elites over the arrest and re-arrest of county supervisor Don Stapley by sheriff's deputies.
Outside the confines of Sand Land, Joe remains popular in certain, very conservative quarters. As I discussed in a September 14 blog post, Arpaio was recently feted in Houston by two reactionary, immigrant-hating groups, Texans for Immigration Reform and U.S. Border Watch, both of which have been labeled "extremist nativist" organizations by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In Southern California, Arpaio's endorsement is much sought after by "wannabe Arpaios," such as former Cali assemblyman and undersheriff Jay LaSuer, who is running to the right of Attila the Hun for San Diego County Sheriff. LaSuer's the pick of notorious brown bashers such as erstwhile Representative Duncan Hunter -- who in 2008 passed off his congressional seat to his wet-behind-the ears offspring Duncan D. Hunter (who said royalty is kaput?) -- and conservative AM lip-flapper Rodger Hedgecock.
LaSuer, who is decidedly anti-immigrant, features an autographed pic of himself with a glowering Arpaio on his Web site, and he's even gone so far in debates with his rivals for the top law enforcement spot in San Diego County to suggest that what SDC really needs is its own Tent City. Check out this passage from the area's East Valley Magazine:
La Suer opposes expanding the jail in Santee's town center. Instead, he proposed using the Santee facility as a temporary booking center and building a new facility elsewhere. He proposed erecting a tent city in the desert to house prisoners.
"What would Joe Arpaio do?" he asked. "Every prisoner in Maricopa County (Arizona) volunteered to wear that pink underwear...Joe's first tent jail housed 500 people and cost $1 million," he said, adding that San Diego's downtown jail costs $80 million and houses 5,000.
Um, "What Would Joe Arpaio Do?" You mean, instead of, "What Would Jesus Do?" LaSuer scores the top prize for scraping, salivating hero-worship. Think he genuflects and kisses the hem of Arpaio's garment whenever they meet? Should you be in San Diego on Friday, November 6, and you're willing to pony up some serious dough, you may get to see LaSuer's sycophancy in action when Arpaio appears at a $150 per person fundraising dinner and reception for the aspiring sheriff.
The day before, Joe will be a county due north stumping for Bill Hunt for Orange County Sheriff. Hunt, a huge proponent of handing out CCW permits like they're prizes in Cracker Jack boxes, is a high-ranking vet of the OC sheriff's departrment and has also served as the police chief for San Clemente, California, the burg where Dick Nixon had his "Western White House," and ultimately wrote his memoirs.
Hunt now fronts his own investigative firm, and his worship at the altar of Arpaio is nearly as slavish as LaSuer's. Writing for the OC Register, Frank Mickadeit just penned a column entitled, "Hunt wants to be O.C.'s Joe Arpaio." Mickadeit, who reads like the E.J. Montini of the O.C., notes that,
"Hunt is an unabashed fan of Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed `America's Toughest Sheriff,' whose prisoners wear pink underwear, live in tents when jail cells overflow, can volunteer for chain gangs, and are treated to classical and patriotic music (and Sinatra!) on `KJOE,' an in-house radio station. Arpaio is coming to O.C. on Nov. 5 to do a fundraiser for Hunt.
"`I think Joe is great,' Hunt told his Lake Forest audience. `I look forward to being mentored by him when I get into office.'"
My colleague Gustavo Arellano at New Times' sister paper in Orange County, the OC Weekly, tells me that Hunt has a rep for railing against corruption, a rep slightly tarnished for his role in a scandal involving Gregory Scott Haidl, the son of an OC Sheriff's Office muck-a-muck.
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"Hunt is challenging the standing sheriff, Sandra Hutchens." Arellano, who pens the popular column Ask a Mexican, e-mailed me today. "Hutchens was chosen by the Board of Supervisors to replace Mike Carona, the second-worst sheriff in the country after Nickel Bag Joe, who was found guilty in federal court of witness tampering and will probably spend a long time in the slammer. [Note: Carona was sentenced to 66 months in the federal pen on corruption charges.] Hunt was actually a good guy for a while, because he--a former sheriff's deputy--ran against Carona and railed against his culture of corruption. After Hunt lost, Carona demoted him.
"The only real smudge on Hunt's record was when he helped the son of an assistant sheriff beat a marijuana rap (Greg Haidl, whom you might remember from the infamous gang-rape video of an unconscious woman)."
Closer to home, and most repugnant perhaps, is Arpaio's support for Richard Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, who is a hero in militia circles and makes videos warning the conspiracy-minded of the dangers of the vaccine for the H1N1 virus (yeah, he's one of those). Mack co-authored a book with white supremacist Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge fame, and he has a new tome out called The County Sheriff: America's Last Hope. Arpaio's endorsed the book and autographed copies for sale on Mack's Web site.
Mack's not running for anything, and he's a local dude (he lists his adderess as Pima, Arizona), but Arpaio's endorsement of the wack Mack's book puts into perspective his support for sheriff wannabes such as LaSuer and Hunt. Essentially, Arpaio is such a megalomaniac, I think he'd endorse just about anyone -- no matter now extreme -- as long as they kissed up to him and, of course, groveled for his blessing.