Joe Arpaio, the self proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, is preparing for what will likely be the toughest of his five re-election campaigns. Unlike previous elections, this year Arpaio is battling a determined effort from immigration rights activists to push him out.
A ruling is imminent in a lawsuit that alleges his department violated the civil rights of Latinos while a second lawsuit filed by the Justice Department is making its way through the courts. In TV ads, Arpaio doesn’t mention the signature issue that helped bring him to national prominence. The conspicuous absence of anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric is a sign, people in both parties say, that undocumented immigration is losing its potency.
“Issues in campaigns are like flowers: They bloom, go away and then they bloom again,” GOP lobbyist Stan Barnes said. “The bloom is off undocumented immigration.”
A decline in the number of undocumented immigrants coupled with the controversy surrounding state led anti-immigrant efforts has curtailed power of Arpaio and his supporters. Two allies — tough-talking former lawman Russell Pearce, who authored many of the state’s strict immigration laws, and Andrew Thomas, a Harvard law graduate and once the county’s top prosecutor — are out. Thomas was stripped of his law license by a state court panel. Pearce was recalled, then lost a bid to return to the statehouse last month.