Maricopa County Sheriff's race: Arpaio vs. Penzone

FOX 10's Andrew Hasbun reports.

- How much impact will Sheriff Joe Arpaio's legal problems have on this race? That is the question analysts and the candidates are asking. The Sheriff is looking at possible criminal contempt of court charges and the county is paying millions of dollars to defend him.  All of this as he heads into a tough election with a a familiar foe.

>>Primary Election Results: FOX10Phoenix.com/elections

It's a rematch: Arpaio vs. former Phoenix Police Sgt. Paul Penzone. Penzone lost by just six points back in 2012 -- the Sheriff's closest race in nearly two decades.

"We set a strong base in 2012," said Penzone, who hopes to build on that base and he may get plenty of help from the Sheriff, who has been embroiled in controversy over the past few years with battles in federal court and a threat of possible criminal contempt of court charges in his ongoing racial profiling case. But his campaign isn't worried.

"We are in a very comfortable position," said Summit Consulting Group President Chad Willems.

The 84-year-old Sheriff wouldn't talk to us for this story. Instead, we spoke to Willems, the Sheriff's longtime campaign organizer.

"He doesn't act like a typical 84-year-old. I am literally half his age and he works circles around me," said Willems. "Being out there with him and watching voters and how people are gravitating towards him. You know, this is their sheriff."

But some recent polls suggest that may be changing. They show Penzone leading Arpaio in a head to head race, however, Arpaio's campaign doesn't buy that.

"We are hearing a much different story and based on what we are seeing internally, it is a much much different story," said Willems. "In an age where promises are broken and politicians do their double speak and Arpaio just tells it like it is and he is an open book."

But Federal Judge G. Murray Snow would likely disagree with that. He has accused the Sheriff and his top aides of lying to his face, dragging their feet on implementing court ordered changes -- and even investigating the judge's wife.

"It is just a constant drumbeat of unethical behavior. Of abuse of authority, of intimidation and things that should never represent law enforcement," said Penzone.

Penzone spent 21 years as a Phoenix Police officer and for seven years, he ran the high profile Silent Witness program.

"It is not a secret that the majority of leaders in other agencies have a difficult time working with the sheriff.  Too much of this this is about politics or notoriety taking credit and law enforcement should never be about taking credit. This is not a competition," he said.

Arpaio is a fixture on the national political scene -- an early supporter of Donald Trump. His endorsement is coveted by some Republicans. His immigration enforcement programs and workplace raids have garnered praise from some, but also got him serious legal trouble too.

My track record speaks for itself. I enforce the law. Whatever law is violated, I enforce it effectively.  I am not going to send a SWAT team to a restaurant to arrest two cooks," said Penzone.

Penzone hopes this time around, Arpaio's legal troubles may have finally caught up to him.

"It is time to move on and say we want law enforcement that is actually creative, innovative.. working with the community, efficient -- all the things that we aren't seeing," said Penzone.

As Arpaio runs for his seventh term as Sheriff, he may be facing his toughest battle yet. This race will be followed nationwide. 


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