Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Nemesis Rebecca Jimenez, Guadalupe's Once and Perhaps Future Mayor

Rebecca Jimenez's campaign video, produced by Dennis Gilman

Sheriff Joe Arpaio may have one foot in the grave (we hope) due to his "broken arm," but one of his enemies from not too long ago is alive and well and running for mayor of the unique little town of Guadalupe.

See also: -Guadalupe made it clear that Joe Arpaio's attacking anyone with brown skin

I'm speaking of Rebecca Jimenez, one of the bravest and best persons I've ever met in Arizona. Jimenez was mayor of Guadalupe during the MCSO's infamous immigration "sweep" of that square-mile burg in 2008.

Arpaio's deputies -- usually no more than two at time -- provide law enforcement services for the town. But in April of that year, Arpaio turned Guadalupe into a mini-police state, having his boys and girls in beige stop cars on the pretext of minor traffic offenses in order to question people about their immigration status.

He did this on false pretext, quickly inflaming Guadalupe's 5,500 residents, who are mostly of Native American and Mexican-American heritage, and whose families have lived in Guadalupe for generations.

As Arpaio played to the media at an ad hoc operations center set up in the middle of town, Jimenez marched up to Arpaio alone, presenting him with a press release calling on him to leave.

The MCSO's jefe, unused to such defiance, turned on Jimenez with a spitting rage, arguing with her about claims made in an MCSO press release, which stated falsely that the town's city council invited the MCSO to do the sweep.

"Forget the press release!" Arpaio fumed at the time, with news cameras catching every second of his hissy fit. "That doesn't matter. Action is what speaks . . . You said you didn't want us back here tomorrow. Is that what you said?"

"Yes," answered Jimenez.

"Well, we will be back here tomorrow," Arpaio insisted. "Full force!"

Indeed, the sweep continued for the next day, with MCSO patrol cars and a helicopter actually menacing a confirmation ceremony for boys and girls in the town, presided over by Bishop Thomas Olmsted.

But Arpaio's ego had taken a bruising, and the command center retreated to a location just outside of town. Arpaio had been kicked to the curb just when he thought he was cock of the walk. By a Latina, no less.

Jimenez quickly became a folk hero, but the petty jealousies of the town's power structure eventually worked against her, scuttling her attempts to score a law enforcement contract with another agency, recalling from office one of her allies on the town council, and eventually voting her out of the mayoral position, which at that time was decided by a majority council vote.

Fast forward a few years. Guadalupe's mayor is now popularly elected, and Jimenez has thrown her hat into the ring, one of four people vying for that office.

Among those competing with Jimenez for the office is incumbent Mayor Yolanda Solarez, part of the town's snooty little establishment, and a longtime fan of Arpaio and the sheriff's office.

Unlike the other candidates, Jimenez is running hard, going door to door, talking to people, sometimes registering folks along the way.

Her opponents are generally teamed up with people running for council, relying on family connections to put them over the top. And in a place like Guadalupe, with a mere 2,891 registered voters and a historically low voter turnout, a large pool of family and friends can make all the difference.

"Of course, I want to win," Jimenez said. "But I'm also a realist. I know the dynamics of this town."

She also knows the issues, a big one always being relations with the sheriff's office.

Those relations have been strained even more than usual due to the killing last year of a 19 year-old Guadalupe resident by a sheriff's deputy, a shooting that still rankles Guadalupanos.

"Regardless of the young man's past history, there are a lot of questions that are going unanswered," she said, among them, accounts by some that the teenager had his hands in the air when he was shot.

Poverty and apathy are also big problems in the town, according to Jimenez. She says she wants people to have hope that if they become engaged, things will get better.

"We're trying to motivate the people who don't usually vote," Jimenez told me, "and get them to show up at the polls."

Election day for Guadalupanos is Tuesday, March 12, and there's a candidates' forum at the town's Mercado (Guadalupe Road and Avenida del Yaqui) this Friday at 6 p.m. in the community room.

Generally, save for Solarez and other kiss-ups, folks in Guadalupe universally despise Sheriff Joe, which should be the perfect motivation for them to vote for Jimenez.

See, if Jimenez becomes mayor, Arpaio will be so pissed that he's bound to have another stroke, um, I mean, "broken arm."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons