Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s backers in Arizona are getting real nervous that a new recall effort to remove the buffoonish lawman from office might succeed this time. They are raising objections to the effort, reasoning that the Arizona constitution prohibits recall elections until six months after the candidate takes office. Not so, say legal experts. William Fisher, the lawyer heading the recall group Respect Arizona, and David Gartner, a professor of constitutional law at Arizona State University, agree that state law clarifies that incumbents are not covered by that provision of the constitution, having already been in the office in question.
Nevertheless, Arpaio’s new support group, Citizens To Protect Fair Election Results, has sent a “cease-and-desist” letter to the recall organizers. A letter, mind you. But the group threatens to file legal action if the demand in the letter isn’t met. Their lawyer, Larry Klayman, said:
“There are no valid reasons for this recall petition. Nothing happened between the day of the election, the swearing-in of Sheriff Arpaio and this recall petition.”
Um, as a lawyer, Klayman should probably know that a recall election is held simply when enough voters insist that it be held, reasoning be damned. In this case, that means that petition signatures from 335,000 Maricopa County voters have to be handed in by May 30th. Organizers have already gathered 50,000, but if there isn’t enough support by the deadline, no election is held. Still, Klayman insists that organizers have violated the rights of county voters by even initiating the recall drive. Arpaio, of course, concurs.
Fisher responds with:
“Then why have a recall statute in the state of Arizona?”
The Respect Arizona group objects to the fact that Arpaio refused to debate the issues with his opponent or justify his positions before the general election. Those issues include failing to investigate over 400 sex crimes, inmates who just happened to die while in the sheriff’s custody, political vendettas against public officials such as county commissioners, $100 million missing from the sheriff’s office and unaccounted for, the pursuit of undocumented immigrants at the expense of other law enforcement matters, and the waste of tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits against the county because of Arpiao’s actions.
Arpaio won November’s vote by the slimmest margin ever in his 20-year stint in office. Recall organizers feel that without the distraction of a national election and its lengthy ballot, and with the focus narrowed to just the misdeeds of the Sheriff’s Office, a majority of voters will choose to oust Arpaio.
“A lot of people don’t think this recall is for real. They think it’s a joke. They think it’s a political ploy . . . Even the media has largely ignored it, because they don’t believe it. This is deadly serious. If our opposition — Parraz [Randy Parraz, a community activist but not the head of the current movement] and his group — get the money that they need for these signatures, they’re going to have a candidate on that ballot, and Joe Arpaio goes away.”
For Arizona, that statement represents a lot of hope.