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Posse Galore

All the goofball publicity antics of "America's Toughest Sheriff" would be really funny, all the strange, mean, paranoid maneuvers in this cage match of a sheriff's race would be really funny, if amid all the madcap mayhem you didn't have to read letters like this one from Catherine Smith:

"I have been incarcerated in Estrella Jail since May 19, 1999 on a charge of custodial interference. . . . At the time, I was two and a half months pregnant by my husband.

"I was housed in E-dorm along with 149 other women. E-dorm has no air conditioning and the swamp cooler was malfunctioning. Once the swamp cooler was fixed, the Jail Commander refused to turn it on. The only cooling came from a few floor fans, which the detention officer regularly shut off as punishment for such things as talking too much or being off one's bunk at the wrong time.



"When I got to jail, the doctor ordered an ultrasound which showed a healthy baby with good movement. . . .

"I became dehydrated from the heat and from diarrhea. I began losing weight (20 pounds in 2 months), yet despite numerous calls from my husband and the Public Defender's office begging the jail to do something so I would not lose my baby, nothing was done until I fainted on my way to court on July 19, 1999.

"That day, the doctor in medical could not find my baby boy's heartbeat, but still wanted me to wait until July 28 to be checked out. One of the volunteer doctors stood up and told them that would be unacceptable.

"I discovered my baby had died in utero at 18 weeks gestation.

"Please inform the people about what [Sheriff Joe Arpaio] does to innocent people."

If your first reaction is: "She's probably guilty, she's in jail," check the box by Joe Arpaio's name on the ballot in the September 12 Republican primary against Jerry Robertson. Or in the November 7 general election against Bobby Ayala or Tom Bearup.

Political wonks say you'll probably be in the majority. That's because Joe Arpaio, more than any law enforcement administrator in America, has done an exceptional job of creating an image and then selling it to the public.

But the other three candidates are begging voters to stop ignoring the man behind the curtain. Cruel and unusual punishment for inmates, many of whom, like Smith, who has a $300,000 lawsuit pending, have not yet gone to trial and who are often there only because they're too poor to afford bail, is not a qualification to be sheriff, they say.

Nor are the facts that:

• Arpaio was $8 million over budget for the last fiscal year. In the last few years, he has boosted the top echelon of his department, adding high-ranking -- and highly paid -- staff. He now has nine deputy chiefs, one chief deputy and six civilians who are paid deputy chief-level salaries, costing taxpayers a total of more than $1.6 million. That's compared with the five command staffers who earned a total of $300,000 in 1993. Arpaio's command staff is three times larger than that of the Phoenix Police Department, a substantially bigger agency.

• Yet last year, Arpaio told 64 detention officers that they wouldn't receive the modest $1,000 raises given to other sheriff's employees. In a memo, the sheriff said the department "did not have the funding" to cover $64,000 in raises. Still, Carol Munroe was hired a month later to direct Arpaio's new "animal welfare" programs. She makes $61,000.

• Arpaio is now asking the county board of supervisors for $1.2 million, up from $600,000 last year, to subsidize a fleet of leased take-home vehicles for more than three dozen favored staffers. No other county department provides take-home vehicles for similar-grade employees.

• Last September, Arpaio supported a move by chief deputy David Hendershott to collect retirement pay as well as a hefty county salary. Hendershott retired as a peace officer and was rehired the next day by Arpaio as a civilian in the same position at the same salary. He gained $51,000 in annual retirement pay in addition to his $120,000 a year salary, a salary that had already doubled over the previous three years. His unprecedented pay raises -- seven over three years -- increased Hendershott's retirement pay about $25,000 a year.

• Four years ago, the state auditor found that Arpaio had misused more than $122,000 of taxpayers' money from the jail-enhancement fund. Arpaio used the money to pay for a private attorney in a constitutionalist lawsuit against the county and for videotapes of his own television appearances, among other things.

• Since 1996, more than 2,600 lawsuits have been filed against Arpaio, including more than 850 by inmates. Payouts have totaled in excess of $16 million, while more than $35 million in wrongful-termination suits are pending. The death of Scott Norberg, who was choked to death by detention officers, cost the county $1 million in private-attorney fees, plus $8.25 million in settlement costs. In June, an appeals court upheld the payment of $1.5 million to Timothy Griffin, who suffered a ruptured ulcer after being refused treatment by jail medical staff.

• Although taxpayers pay only the first $1 million of any settlement, with insurance companies picking up the rest, insurance company representatives have warned the county that because of the conditions of the jails, the number of lawsuits and what they feel is shoddy defense in many of those cases, cost to the taxpayers in the form of premiums will most likely skyrocket when the county's insurance contract ends in two years, according to two high-ranking county officials.

• Jail conditions have worsened during Arpaio's regime. Two years ago, consultants hired to study the need for new jails concluded that the sheriff needed to dramatically raise staffing levels in existing jails. Jail reviews continue to show that dozens of posts at the Madison Street and Durango jails still are unstaffed and that critical jail maintenance has been chronically neglected.

• In 1996, a Department of Justice investigation found that Maricopa County inmates regularly were subjected to excessive force and received negligent medical care. Arpaio bragged later that he had changed nothing in the jails after the federal probe. Inmates at the Madison Street Jail are often locked up for two or three months before they receive medical screenings. In doing so, the department has been violating a court order from a 1983 lawsuit, which requires that inmates receive a medical screening within 14 days of their arrival at the jail. Deputies and detention officers say that such lax medical screening puts them, as well as other inmates, in danger of contracting diseases, and provides even more fodder for lawsuits.

Moreover, Arpaio's opponents say, by emphasizing publicity stunts over sound public policy, proper staffing and respect for basic human rights, and by rewarding sycophants and illegally punishing whistle blowers, Joe Arpaio has made a mockery of the Maricopa County sheriff's office. And in doing so, he has made life more dangerous for deputies, detention officers, inmates and those residents in the far-flung reaches of the county who depend on him for protection and rescue.

This is why, in an unusual show of unity, all the state's legitimate law enforcement associations representing all law enforcement personnel in the state are supporting Arpaio's Republican primary opponent, Jerry Robertson.

Still, none of this may matter, because short of indictment or recall, some observers predict, nothing is going to get between the law-abiding Americans of Maricopa County and their beloved embodiment of the American Western hero.

"You have this image that has been built so carefully, that is now so strong, that those substantial public-policy issues seem to completely bounce off him," says Bob Grossfeld, a longtime Arizona political strategist and pollster. "In a really sick, twisted way, this has become the mechanics of modern politics. It just finally caught up to Arizona with Joe Arpaio."

And Arpaio has one other huge advantage. His would-be general-election opponents, Bobby Ayala and Tom Bearup, with the help of their supporters, are presently slaughtering each other with claims of election fraud, criminal pasts, religious zealotry, adultery, tweaking, alcoholism, obesity, Napoleon complexes, tax evasion, political extremism and, in both directions, illiteracy and general stupidity.

This is why some feel the ultimate solution isn't to elect a new sheriff. The solution is to stop electing the sheriff.

Only when the county board of supervisors appoints the sheriff, some observers believe, will we finally start seeing the professionalism and fiscal accountability we see in the Phoenix Police Department or the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

"I'd hate to see that happen," says Robertson. "But I can definitely understand people's frustration. The whole thing can seem overwhelming sometimes."

A recent posting on an Internet chat board:

"Me and my friend Brian wish we had such a tough guy here in Germany. I just can say Joe Arpaio for president!"

[Response] "Lemme think. OK, last time you had such a guy, we all got World War II."

For those longing for the anti-Joe, Independent candidate Tom Bearup presents a conundrum. After all, Tom Bearup helped create Joe Arpaio.

"It was one of the things I regret most in my life," Bearup says. "I'm so sorry for that."

Bearup was a top aide and head of Arpaio's public relations bureau from 1992 to 1997, when he was run out of the administration. Bearup's take: He fell out of favor with Arpaio after he twice reported to him inappropriate handling of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of pink underwear by Arpaio's chief deputy, the perpetually embattled David Hendershott.

Arpaio has said Bearup was axed because he was incompetent and illiterate. Arpaio said in previous interviews that Bearup was nothing more than a chauffeur.

Arpaio declined to be interviewed for this story. Sergeant Dave Trombi, the office's public information officer, says New Times hasn't been fair to Arpaio and that New Times doesn't deserve an interview because it's just "an arts and entertainment magazine."

Other high-ranking MCSO employees, some still in the administration, confirmed Bearup's star-maker role in the sheriff's office.

And one of his roles, he says, was to "make Joe Arpaio a household name."

"You've got to remember the time," Bearup says. "We were just coming in after the (Tom) Agnos administration and the botching of the temple murders investigation. There was a bad cloud over the sheriff's office. We had to create a positive image again."

Gary Josephson, a retired state Department of Public Safety officer who had served as a video specialist under Agnos and then spent two years under Arpaio, was there for the makeover of his boss. At first, Josephson says, "Joe was just awful in front of a camera."

But Bearup and Lisa Allen, who joined Arpaio's staff after leaving local television, began coaching the sheriff. They taught him his tough-guy vernacular and tough-guy swagger, Josephson says, with Allen at one point telling him to "be the Italian stud that you are."

"They made him into a movie character," says Richard Herrera, an associate professor of political science at ASU. "But he's not Gary Cooper in 'High Noon,' not the 'I'm worried, but by gosh I'm gonna do what it takes.' They made him into a John Wayne, the whole unflinching tough-guy thing. And boy has it worked."

Then, in 1993, they came up with the requisite "media event." The first, Josephson says, was "Operation Summer Heat," a crackdown in the county's southwest district based on crime statistics that, once manipulated, showed a murder spree taking place in a part of the Valley "where there were only cows and chickens."

What some in Arpaio's staff did, Josephson and two ex-deputies say, was publicly attribute all the murders committed in the unincorporated areas of Maricopa County to the southwestern Valley. Then deputies and helicopters and other heavy equipment were sent to the area, and Josephson followed with his video camera. And then arrest statistics were doctored to make it look like the crackdown was a success, Josephson says.

"They'd take a DUI, and if the guy was uninsured and was speeding, then it would show up as three arrests," he says. "We got tons of arrests and then declared victory. And everybody bought it."

"Hendershott was consistently inflating numbers," Bearup says. "It was false data. And Joe loved it."

Everybody bought it, including Paul Harvey, the part-time Valley resident who told his national radio audience that Joe Arpaio had taken his fight against crime "to the blood-soaked southwestern Valley." Once Paul Harvey's story aired, Josephson says, "Arpaio was on the national radar. And it just totally snowballed from there."

Arpaio and his shapers then stumbled upon a publicity gold mine, one that, according to political strategist Bob Grossfeld, had rarely before been mined.

It was the jails, Arpaio's primary responsibility. For the local television media, Grossfeld says, it was the "last piece of the criminal justice trifecta."

"You already had the chase and arrest -- all the lights and stuff -- and you already had the courts -- all the tearful scenes of whatever -- then all of a sudden with Joe, you got the jails," he says. "I'm sure Arpaio's people were like, 'Wow, cool, if we do anything at all and invite the press, they'll come and shoot it.' It doesn't require a high level of talent. After a time or two, you've got the formula down."

Cop-blotter mayhem has become the bread and butter of local television news. Thoughtful analysis of issues and enterprise reporting take time and brains; Joe and his green bologna, pink underwear, helicopters, howitzers and flashing lights take little time or thought, and make for great video.

Observers say Arpaio has also shown a mastery of playing to people's fears, particularly those of retirees, who, even more so than the rest of Arizonans, tend to rank the fear of crime as their top concern. What better anti-crime figure to give Americans than that of the Old West lawman, observers say.

And more than most elected offices, politicos and media observers say, the sheriff can survive on mythology alone. In reality, sheriff's deputies make only 3 percent of the arrests in Maricopa County, so the office has no real public-safety impact on the vast majority of voters. Nor do most voters come in contact with the sheriff's primary responsibility, the jails.

The complicated reality of running jails that house a mix of sentenced inmates and those who haven't been judged guilty is lost beneath his relentless publicity stunts aimed at reinforcing his mantra, "I won't coddle criminals."

"Arpaio took this fantasy that people are being coddled in the jails and has just continued to feed on it," Grossfeld says.

So now, Maricopa County has the Kevlar Kop, a media sensation seemingly impervious to scandal.

"In most places, nobody knows who the heck the sheriff is," Grossfeld says. "It's usually a pretty low-key, out-of-the-way position.

"Then you have Joe."

Jerry Robertson says he believes voters are getting sick of the "Joe Show." He says he hears the discontent when he's out stumping. He says he has seen private polling numbers that show Arpaio's popularity "slipping badly."

"I think you'll be surprised," Robertson says. "We're going to win."

Much more than Joe Arpaio, Jerry Robertson really looks the part of a Western sheriff. He has a strong jaw, he wears cowboy boots and he drives a big-ass American sedan. He looks a bit like Cliff Robertson, and the gals at the retirement villages think he's a hottie.

Although he's a marginal public speaker, Robertson is engaging, quick-witted and genial in conversation. He carries a calm, dignified authority, that air given off by lawmen who you know, if the conversation turned sour, could kill you in a heartbeat.

During a recent fund raiser in the bare-bones cinderblock Fraternal Order of Police lodge near I-17 and Indian School, Robertson moved easily through the small crowd of mostly retired deputies and detention officers. They talked about old times, they shook their heads in unison talking about the present times.

For good or bad, Jerry Robertson is definitely one of the boys.

His detractors say it could be bad. Some claim he is surrounding himself with some of the same people who created the problems of past administrations.

Still, compared with the flurry of accusations among the Arpaio, Ayala and Bearup camps, Robertson seems by far the least impeachable of the group.

Robertson moved to Phoenix in 1943 when he was nine. He joined the Army in the early 1950s and served in Okinawa during the Korean War. Robertson put in more than 41 years in active and reserve duty in the Army, retiring as a Command Sergeant Major from the Military Police Corps. He trained for 12 weeks at the FBI National Academy and served five years at the Military Discipline Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Robertson joined the sheriff's office in 1964. In his 29 years with the department, he spent 15 years working in the jails, reaching the position of commander of institutional services. Robertson also served as deputy commander of security for both the Superior and Justice courts of Maricopa County.

Still, the Arizona Republic says he's not qualified to be sheriff.

"Robertson, however well intended, simply fails to convince that he has the top-level management experience necessary to lead the sheriff's office in one of the nation's largest and fastest growing counties," the newspaper says.

"I have no idea where that came from," Robertson says of his snubbing.

If elected, Robertson says he would:

• Reorganize the upper echelon of the sheriff's office. Arpaio, he says, has created an extremely top-heavy administration by continuing to award chief deputy-level jobs to political cronies. "They have so many people running the publicity machine and running internal investigations of potential political enemies," Robertson says. "I would move as many of those people as possible out of those offices and into patrol cars and into jails."

• Propose raises for detention officers, deputies and civilian employees to bring them into line with similar law enforcement agencies. "The people in the field are being ignored," Robertson says. "The turnover is out of hand, the morale is in the tank and because of that, everything is understaffed. You've got a terribly dangerous situation in the jails."

• Request a detailed state-run audit of the office's books. "They have been moving money for jail maintenance to pay for frills. Besides putting people in danger, they're just setting the county up for tons of lawsuits."

• Create an environment that would help reduce the number of lawsuits and end the use of private attorneys for cases in which the county attorney should represent the department. Robertson says Arpaio has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars by refusing representation by his bitter enemy, county attorney Rick Romley. Robertson would offer reinstatement to several ex-employees who presently have "legitimate" multimillion-dollar wrongful termination cases pending against Arpaio.

"I just want to return professionalism and dignity to the sheriff's office," he says.

Robertson admits he has an uphill battle, but he is much more upbeat about his chances than outside observers.

Election observers predict only about 15 percent of the county's registered Republicans will participate in the upcoming primary. People aren't too interested in this primary because there are few high-profile races. But Robertson says low voter turnout is on his side. Typically, when there's little interest in a Republican primary, the people who still vote en masse are retired people. Robertson feels his grassroots, hand-to-mouth campaign has more of a chance at this bottleneck.

The problem is, those same people have tended to be Arpaio's strongest supporters.

"We just have to get the truth out to them," Robertson says.

Beginning last week, about 40 of Robertson's supporters began targeting Sun City, Sun City West, parts of Scottsdale and the retirement villages of the East Valley, all strongholds for Joe Arpaio's "tough on criminals" mythology.

Robertson's people will be calling residents in those areas. They'll also be distributing leaflets.

Robertson is a little late in starting up his campaign machine. And Arpaio has him badly outgunned financially (Arpaio has raised about $80,000; Robertson has raised a little more than $9,000). By now, you've surely heard one of Arpaio's radio spots or seen one of his four-foot-by-eight-foot red, white and blue campaign signs. Robertson has fewer radio spots and smaller and fewer signs.

And Robertson grumbles that the Republic and local television seem intent on giving Arpaio free campaign ads. Last month on Channel 3, Arpaio was given an on-camera makeover. Last Sunday, the Republic ran a small jobs-page story in which Arpaio reminisced about his first job and the values it taught him.

"Jeez, nobody has asked me about the nice paper route I had as a kid," Robertson says with gentle venom.

But Robertson has one big trump card -- all those law enforcement organizations that are supporting him. He says hundreds of law enforcement personnel from throughout Arizona are calling friends and family in Maricopa County, explaining to them why they should vote for Robertson (or, in reality, why they should not vote for Arpaio).

"There's a big move to get the word out that this guy is terrible for the men and women who must work under him," Robertson says. "And in an election like this, we feel this kind of grassroots movement could have a powerful impact."

The whole Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker episode really screwed things up for charismatic couples who run their own kitschily decorated, vaguely Baptist, nondenominational churches.

On a recent weekday, Tom Bearup stands in the quaint little chapel of his Family Bible Fellowship & Academy, gently talking about how he found God and how God guided him toward a life mission of helping people.

The church chapel is separated from his home and real-estate business and campaign headquarters by a six-foot-wide breezeway. They are insured differently, he says, and they run on different utility accounts and off of separate bank accounts. So, he says, contrary to what his opponents say, he is not running a political campaign, nor is he holding campaign fund raisers, under the guise of a nonprofit tax-exempt organization.

Bobby Ayala's campaign chairman, Jim Cozzolino, who used to be Bearup's assistant, recently sent to the IRS and the Maricopa County Elections Department documents he says will prove Bearup has violated numerous election laws and pocketed campaign contributions. Bearup says he's "absolutely confident" he'll be vindicated. Both the Elections Department and the IRS were investigating the charges as of press time. Steve Gallardo, campaign finance administrator for the department, says his office should have a report this week.

"He's done," Cozzolino says. "And I can promise you, if the election people let him get away with this stuff, I'm gonna raise hell."

"It's a political witch hunt," Bearup says. "They're just trying to get me out of the race."

Ayala, Cozzolino and Dan Wooten all worked for Bearup's campaign, which has been quietly chugging along since not long after Bearup was run out of Arpaio's administration. The three say they left Bearup because of the way Bearup was handling campaign money, which, over the last year and a half, adds up to about $14,000, according to campaign finance reports.

Bearup says Wooten and Cozzolino were domineering wanna-be powerbrokers who barged into his campaign and tried to take control. Also, Bearup says, Ayala, Wooten and Cozzolino had a habit of getting drunk at fund raisers and then driving home. (The three deny they were ever legally drunk at the fund raisers.) When Bearup stood up to them, he says, Cozzolino and Wooten talked Ayala into leaving Bearup and running himself.

This is the nicest stuff the two camps say about each other.

The sad truth of this campaign, outside observers say, is that even if the cloud around Bearup is all innuendo and happenstance and misinterpretations, it still creates a crippling perception of a man whose only hope of winning is to create a powerful anti-Joe image. In the November general election, not only will Ayala and Bearup split the anti-Arpaio vote (if they're still in the race), they will have so thoroughly disparaged each other that neither will offer voters a credible alternative.

If Bearup's campaign can thoroughly clear itself of wrongdoing, though, and the two camps can somehow agree to a gentleman's race, and if for some bizarre reason Joe Arpaio doesn't jump all over his opponents before November, then, perhaps, the issue will be that Tom Bearup has fairly strong law enforcement and administrative experience.

Bearup was chief executive under Arpaio, and he was mayor for two years of a small Alaska town. He was the Phoenix advance man during the Reagan presidency and was a serious contender for the ambassadorship of South Korea, according to letters he still has that were written on his behalf by congressmen and others.

Bearup graduated from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy in 1971 and is currently certified in Arizona as a peace officer. He served in the army in South Korea during the Vietnam War.

His campaign manager, Phil Pollack, is a soft-spoken, dignified, issues-oriented retired lawman from Los Angeles.

And once Bearup is allowed to talk about the issues of the race, he quickly becomes the most polished of all four candidates.

If elected, he says he would immediately fire David Hendershott and begin a comprehensive audit of the sheriff's office. The bloated executive staff would be trimmed, he says.

He would put advanced communications technology, called mobile data terminals, in every cruiser. He would work to integrate the sheriff's department into all aspects of the county and state criminal justice systems. This would greatly speed comprehensive information about suspects to all law enforcement personnel, he says.

"Arpaio has been a giant barrier to integrating the county criminal justice system," Bearup says. "Joe likes having the power of controlling information. But we could be so much more efficient."

Bearup says he would work to rebuild ties between the sheriff's office and other county agencies such as the county attorney's office. And he would create a work environment in which "employees aren't scared to death to talk."

Bearup's motto is "Tough but Fair," a dig at Arpaio's reputation for violating people's human and civil rights. Like Robertson, he says he hopes to restore "professionalism" to the department.

"It's unfortunate that the focus has gotten turned away from the real issues of the campaign," Bearup says. "The real issue is Joe Arpaio's misuse of this office. The real issue is that Joe has to go."

Bobby Ayala has a tendency to get lost behind campaign honchos Dan Wooten and Jim Cozzolino.

Ayala is quiet and slow with responses, preferring to chew on his thoughts for a while before speaking. He reads from notes when talking about issues. He seems to be struggling with voice modulation and gesturing, the tricks of public speaking.

Both Wooten and Cozzolino, though, are wily, loquacious and charismatic. If Ayala wins, it will be because of their energy and political savvy.

That's if they're still in his campaign. Late last week, according to Cozzolino, both he and Wooten were considering leaving Ayala's campaign because of the possibility of financial impropriety.

Bearup has turned over to New Times documents showing Ayala received more than $6,500 from a female drug informant who, Bearup says, came to Bearup claiming to be Ayala's spurned lover. Ayala denies he was romantically involved with the woman and says the money was a loan he was to pass on to a mutual friend.

"I admit it didn't look good," Cozzolino says.

Some of Arpaio's detractors now are accusing Cozzolino of being an Arpaio plant sent to destroy Bearup's and Ayala's campaigns, a claim Cozzolino vehemently denies. Cozzolino admitted that he occasionally trades e-mails with Arpaio spokesperson Lisa Allen, but that the e-mails are not friendly.

"I tell her her boss is an idiot, she tells me he's not," he says. "Look, Arpaio is a bigger scumbag than Bearup."

Also, some in the law enforcement community argue that Ayala doesn't have the high-level management experience needed to run such a massive department. Ayala counters that he has plenty of management experience because he led investigative teams in several difficult and far-reaching investigations.

When allowed to talk issues, Ayala is an earnest guy with a passion for human rights and the plight of street-level deputies and detention officers. And with a few Toastmaster luncheons under his belt, Ayala could have great sway with the county's burgeoning minority community, which tends to have a more realistic view of Arpaio.

Ayala, a native of south Phoenix, was hired as a deputy sheriff in 1970. During his 30 years with the department, he served as a patrol officer, homicide investigator, district detective and undercover narcotics investigator. Ayala was a key investigator in several high-profile cases such as the 1988 homicide of Deputy Vernon Marconnet.

He was twice nominated for the department's "Deputy of the Year" award and was twice recognized as "Deputy of the Quarter."

He speaks Spanish fluently.

If elected sheriff, Ayala says he would downsize the command staff, reduce the number of civilian vehicles, get rid of Hendershott and install high-tech communications devices in every cruiser. He, too, would order an extensive audit of the department's books, review jail policies and funding toward the goal of better protecting detention officers and the civil rights of prisoners. He says he'd also boost manpower and resources to attack Maricopa County's burgeoning methamphetamine industry. Ayala says that by misallocating resources, Arpaio has allowed the county to become a major meth center.

His slogan: Arpaio is "Missing in Action," a stab at Arpaio putting publicity stunts before solid law enforcement and safe, efficient detention.

Ayala is canvassing Phoenix's Latino communities. He says he is hearing a growing frustration with Arpaio's mistreatment of staff and pretrial detainees. He hopes he can parlay this widespread discontent into November votes.

"We really believe people are sick of his games," Ayala says. "We just have to get those people out to vote."

That and get Bearup out of the race.

"No doubt he creates problems for us," Wooten says. "He's splitting the vote."

Wooten says he went to Tom Bearup because he was appalled at the way Joe Arpaio trampled civil rights and ignored the legal parameters of the office. He says he then became disillusioned with Bearup and came to believe Ayala was the best alternative to Arpaio, although he's not so sure of that anymore.

Their departure, some say, may be the best thing that could happen for Ayala's campaign. Both Wooten's and Cozzolino's campaign tactics, as well as their dubious pasts, cast a pall over Ayala.

Wooten doesn't pay federal income taxes because he believes they are unconstitutional and are not allowed under the federal tax codes. To his credit, he offers up a very convincing argument. Ayala says he has no problems with Wooten's political views.

Wooten says he served as a liaison between the FBI and militia and other fringe groups during the siege at Ruby Ridge. He says he was not an FBI informant as some have claimed. He says he was there to ensure that the federal government didn't trample on the rights of its citizens.

Wooten sees this race as his opportunity to make a name for himself as a campaign manager.

"Hey, if I get the most known sheriff in America, my stakes go up," he says.

Jim Cozzolino came back from Vietnam "angry," which, he says, explains all the burglary and forgery charges that dot his record through the 1970s. Cozzolino was convicted of two burglaries and two forgeries that were reduced to misdemeanors and dismissed when he sought law enforcement certification. He was a stupid, angry kid who made some mistakes, he says. But that's not him anymore.

Last year, Cozzolino was investigated by sheriff's deputies for allegedly making death threats against Joe Arpaio. Cozzolino says the investigation was politically motivated. No charges were filed.

Cozzolino did admit, however, that he has sent Arpaio disparaging e-mails, one of which read:

"Hey BOZO NOSE, Let's see, you have a puppy posse, a pussy posse . . . you should start a Dick Posse . . . and you can be the BIG DICK you are in charge. You're an idiot . . . and a waste of tax payers [sic] money."

"It's going to take more than that idiot Les to keep you out of harm's way," Cozzolino wrote in a recent e-mail to Bearup.

"That wasn't a physical threat," Cozzolino says. "Les is doing Bearup's investigations, and Les is a fucking idiot. That's what I meant."

Cozzolino admits he could tone down his e-mails and "let go of some of the anger." Cozzolino is a passionate man with deep convictions, Wooten says. He says Cozzolino simply wants a fair and just sheriff for Maricopa County.

Ayala's supporters and Bearup's supporters also have traded accusations and epithets on the Web site, www.arpaio.com, which was established by Arpaio's detractors as a clearinghouse for information about abuses in the sheriff's office. The cyber brawl between Bearup's and Ayala's camps became so intense on the site that the site's manager, Nancy Medlock, had to post a message two weeks ago begging the candidates to stop attacking each other.

"ARPAIO.com. In case you haven't noticed, that is the name of this website," she wrote. "It is not COZ.com, BEARUP.com, AYALA.com or ROBERTSON.com. It was set up to get information out on ARPAIO and his administration. We made a few simple requests. We asked that you stick to the subject and that personal attacks not be posted. Many of the posters are continuing to ignore those requests. If it is your choice to do so, then it is my choice to shut the site down. Yes, that means letting Joe and Company win. But that appears to be what most of you want. The choice is yours."

Ayala says that if Robertson wins the primary, he will engage only "in a gentleman's race" with Robertson.

Bearup, too, promises a gentleman's race with Robertson.

Robertson promises a gentleman's race, too, if he survives the primary.

If Robertson doesn't win the primary, expect the battle between Arpaio, Bearup and Ayala to be anything but gentlemanly.

And ultimately, those viewing this race from outside believe that's what's going to happen. Both consultant Bob Grossfeld and ASU's Richard Herrera believe Robertson is offering too little opposition too late against too big of a publicity juggernaut.

And Grossfeld believes Arizona's early voting laws may have already sunk Robertson. Grossfeld estimates that 50 percent of the Republican primary votes will be cast through mail ballots, and Robertson may have mobilized too late to penetrate that bloc of voters. And he estimates that, as of right now, most of those Republican ballots have been mailed back in.

"It sounds like they started too late," Grossfeld says.

And even if Robertson did reach the voter's doorstep, Herrera isn't sure what he has to say would have an impact.

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"They are substantial issues," he says, "but I'm just not convinced the electorate is concerned with those issues."

Still, the opposition plugs on. And against most every indicator, the opposition has faith that the people will finally see beyond the grand myth Arpaio and his publicists have created.

"We are going to win this," Robertson says. "The people are not going to fall for his carnival anymore.

"The people are not stupid."

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