Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces 2020 run for Sheriff

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons | Then-Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix on June 18, 2016.

By Nick Pecora ’21


Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has announced that he is running for a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County.

Arpaio served six consecutive four-year terms as sheriff before being defeated by Democratic candidate Paul Penzone in his 2016 bid for re-election. Despite this defeat, the 87-year-old former sheriff has decided to set the stage for a rematch against Sheriff Penzone in 2020.

Arpaio’s run will likely be an uphill battle, as many viewed him as a controversial figure during his tenure as sheriff. Arpaio’s latest run-in with controversy came when he accepted a pardon from President Donald Trump following a federal conviction for criminal contempt of court.

One policy of Arpaio’s that was highly controversial was Tent City, an outdoor jail where inmates were housed in military tents and forced to endure the blistering Arizona summer heat. Arpaio has not only faced criticism from liberals regarding institutions such as Tent City, but from conservatives as well.

Mr. John Buchanan is a member of Brophy’s security team and a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department who, despite moderating the Young Republicans Club on campus, has not always agreed with Arpaio’s policies and institutions.

“You’re putting people with low-level crimes in and it’s a horrible environment,” Mr. Buchanan said of Tent City.

Mr. Buchanan brings a unique perspective to the race, as he has personal experience with Sheriff Penzone. “He and I worked together on the Phoenix Police Department, so I have a little background with him,” Mr. Buchanan said of Sheriff Penzone.

When asked who he would support in the upcoming election, Mr. Buchanan didn’t hesitate. “Definitely Paul Penzone,” he said. “It hasn’t got anything to do with parties — he’s the better choice in my opinion.”

Mr. Buchanan explained his decision to endorse the Democratic candidate: “I’m a registered Republican, I’m the moderator of the Republican club, but if there’s clearly a better choice … I would certainly vote for the person over the party.”

Mr. José Leyba ’94 noted the lack of faith that many minority communities in Arizona have in Arpaio’s ability to effectively lead.

“When you have an elected official who has a history of doing things that hurt certain communities or target certain communities … I think those types of things don’t instill a lot of confidence in Latino communities or immigrant communities,” Mr. Leyba said.

Mr. Leyba also described Arpaio’s decision to run again after being pardoned by President Trump a “slap in the face.”

He also expressed concerns that Arpaio will not be held accountable for potential wrongdoing if re-elected. “The President of the United States pardoning someone who’s been convicted, that gives former Sheriff Joe Arpaio more leeway to do and say things that he’s been doing all along,” Mr. Leyba said.

If Arpaio wins the Republican primary on Aug. 4, 2020, he will go on to challenge incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone in the general election on Nov. 3, 2020.