Recall Joe!

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There's only one option: Recall Joe Arpaio.

Nothing would inject more fear into the sheriff than a recall campaign similar to the one that led to the impeachment of former governor Evan Mecham.

The Mecham recall was given little chance of success in its early days by the mainstream media. The two dominant daily newspapers in the Valley at the time, the Arizona Republic and the now-defunct Phoenix Gazette (where I was working at the time as a business writer), dismissed the recall effort as amateurish.

But the recall -- which was spearheaded by gay activist Ed Buck -- tapped into a huge reservoir of discontent undetected by so-called political experts. The recall was successful; the only reason there wasn't a recall election was that the Arizona Legislature impeached the hapless Mecham.

Once again, all the ingredients are in place for a recall that this time would jettison the 72-year-old Arpaio from his expensive 19th-floor office atop the Wells Fargo tower in downtown Phoenix and send him shuffling back to his pricey home in Fountain Hills, where he could spend his retirement feeding quarters into the slot machines at the nearby Fort McDowell Casino along with other seniors.

Just because Arpaio won reelection doesn't mean he has insurmountable support. He had to campaign hard against Saban in the GOP primary to win 55.9 percent of the vote, the lowest winning margin of his infamous career.

A partisan primary and a recall election are two different creatures.

A recall campaign isn't restricted by party affiliation. Any registered voter can sign a recall petition and vote in a recall election. If Saban's 101,000 Republican supporters join forces with several hundred thousand Democrats and Independents in a countywide recall effort, Arpaio will be toast.

A recall is a relatively easy course of action.

What's needed is a dedicated core of workers, a great Web site and $300,000 to pay workers to collect the 283,300 signatures within 120 days needed to trigger the vote.

Even more enticing is that there are no campaign contribution limits to a recall campaign. Hence, the angry survivors of someone killed inside Arpaio's jail could throw in a large sum of cash to fuel the effort.

A well-run, Web-based operation modeled after Vermont Governor Howard Dean's presidential campaign would be the template for a successful grassroots fund-raising effort. Who even needs the daily newspapers to get the message across? The Web is far cheaper and more effective for communicating important specialized information and for quickly raising large sums of cash.

Those involved in this movement aren't likely to let Arpaio's despicable history of intimidation of political opponents scare them from taking direct action to kick him out of office. Most of them have seen political fights up close before and will consider a Recall Joe movement a hell of a lot of fun.

Let the party begin!

There are many reasons Arpaio should be removed from office, and removed as soon as possible.

Foremost is that this demented cretin is an increasingly dangerous threat to the safety and security of the three million-plus people living in Maricopa County.

Not only has he failed to fulfill his primary duty as sheriff -- which is to safely operate the county jails -- he has undermined the ability of law enforcement agencies in the county to implement anti-terrorism security measures mandated by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Arpaio's decision to disband the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's SWAT team last December is sending shock waves through law enforcement circles, and jeopardizing a countywide plan to have eight highly trained and heavily fortified rapid-response teams poised to react to terrorist attacks.

This puts the citizens of the county at unnecessary risk, says Fred Taylor, a Republican party official who served as a special criminal justice assistant to former governor Fife Symington.

Taylor says "Maricopa County's probably the most vulnerable county in the country" to a terrorist attack because of its large geographic size, proximity to a porous international border and potential prime targets like the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the world's largest commercial nuclear plant.

Arpaio, Taylor says, has alienated other law enforcement agencies with his cowboy mentality, which makes it difficult to develop a coordinated law enforcement effort.

"Nobody works with Joe," Taylor tells me. "You can't find me one chief of police in Maricopa County who will support Joe."

Indeed, every law enforcement group in Arizona backed Saban in the primary.

Arpaio's credibility took another hit when he began dismantling the SWAT team soon after he won reelection in November. Although I made fun of MCSO's SWAT officers for an inept raid on an Ahwatukee home last summer (a house was burned down, a puppy incinerated, and MCSO's armored personnel carrier smashed into a parked car), the squad before that had enjoyed a good national reputation.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty