Recall Joe!

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"I don't respect him," Salmon said. "I don't think he's playing with a full deck."

I'm confident there will be a groundswell of support for a Recall Joe Arpaio campaign from a throng of outraged citizens, police and fire unions and, most important, key Republican party officials.

"I don't think we would have a problem getting the county executive guidance committee to vote to support a recall," says Bill Norton, Republican District 22 chairman.

It was Norton who started the Republican rebellion against Arpaio last year when District 22 voted overwhelmingly against endorsing the incumbent. Norton says he's more than ready to keep the revolution alive.

Arpaio, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has in the past repeatedly said he's only accountable to the people who elect him.

"I don't report to any bureaucrat, any politician or any governor," Arpaio said at a recent Republican women's luncheon that I attended in Scottsdale. "I report to the people."

Arpaio has used a series of clever public relations ploys to keep his name in front of the public. Such gimmicks as pink underwear, the mounted posse, chain gangs, and now the voluntary fingerprints at traffic stops are meant to project the image that he's keeping everyone safe and aggressively fighting crime.

"When he came into office, he implemented some ideas that were unusual and strange to the Valley, but that seemed to be effective, and people were responsive," says the Arizona Police Association's Brian Livingston.

But over time, Livingston says, Arpaio has "lost sight that he's here to serve the people, and not that the people are here to serve him."

The recall would be the ultimate test of Arpaio's political strength. If it is successful, he would have a choice of either resigning or standing for another election sometime late this year or early next year.

Waiting in the wings of a successful recall campaign is Dan Saban.

Saban, 48, says that while he's staying out of the recall campaign so as not to be accused of sour grapes, he's ready to challenge the elderly Arpaio at the ballot box.

Saban could hardly contain his excitement at the prospect of a recall and the opportunity to run against Joe sooner than the 2008 election.

"If they are successful with a recall effort," Saban says, "you bet I'd run against him again!"

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty