The effort to recall tough-talking Mariposa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has reached a critical stage
as a group trying to recall him is reportedly well short of the voter signatures needed to trigger an election.
Arpaio has become a national lightning rod over illegal immigration issues over the years. He has gained national attention for his often contentious efforts to combat illegal crossings over Arizona's 1,969-mile border with Mexico. Despite that, the 80-year-old sheriff remains popular locally, recently winning his sixth term in office.
Recall organizers have struggled to raise funds, have had to rely mainly on volunteers to collect signatures and are mounting a campaign against a politician who has a base of devoted supporters.
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They claim Arpaio should be dismissed for his office failing to adequately investigate more than 400 sex crimes cases and costing the county $25 million in legal settlements over treatment in county jails. A federal judge recently ruled that his office had systematically targeted Latinos in his signature immigration patrols.
"We can't allow the sheriff to stay in office four more years," said recall campaign manager Lilia Alvarez.
But last week, organizers said they have collected 200,359 signatures, short of the 335,000 signatures
they are required to file by Thursday to force a recall.
Arpaio received nearly 680,000 votes this past November to beat former Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone, who finished with nearly 600,000 votes. A third candidate, former Scottsdale police Lt. Mike Stauffer, received about 62,000 votes.
The sheriff’s supporters have used the recall effort as a fundraising mechanism, drawing donors from around the country. Earlier this month, recall supporters held an event at a Phoenix union hall that was intended to highlight a new phase of the campaign but quickly turned into a plea for donations.
The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against Arpaio alleged that his deputies pulled over some vehicles only to make immigration status checks. They also accused the sheriff of ordering some immigration patrols not based on reports of crime but rather on letters and emails from Arizonans who complained about people with dark skin congregating in an area or speaking Spanish.
The recall group said more backers have come forward since the racial profiling decision on Friday. Supporters have been camped outside a county building since Sunday in their final push.
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