PHOENIX – Jerry Sheridan won the GOP nomination in the Maricopa County Sheriff Race, beating former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
It was a close race, but the latest primary election results released on Friday night showed Sheridan had gotten a head start on his former boss.
The results are not yet official. But with less than 3,000 votes to total, it would not be possible for Arpaio to make up for the deficit of 6,000 votes.
It was Arpaio’s second attempt to make a political comeback. He lost his seat as sheriff to Democrat Paul Penzone in 2016, and in 2018 he came third in a three-way race for the GOP nomination to the US Senate.
Sheridan, who worked in the sheriff’s office for 38 years, mostly during Arpaio’s 24 years in office, said on Friday he was happy. He retired as deputy chief after Arpaio lost his candidacy for re-election in 2016.
Sheridan said he had respect for his former boss.
“Joe Arpaio has done a great job for a long time,” Sheridan said. “He will never be out of place, but I think his political career is over.”
Now, Sheridan said, he will refocus his energy on the November race against Penzone, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“Penzone is very beatable,” Sheridan said.
Arpaio said he “took his chance”, but voters chose someone else.
“I’m a little shocked to lose,” Arpaio said. “This will be the last time I run for office.”
Before Friday’s numbers, the race was stuck between Arpaio and Sheridan. At one point, they were separated by around 400 votes, with Sheridan leading the way.
In 2016, Penzone easily beat Arpaio. In 2012, Penzone lost to Arpaio.
Before 2016, Arpaio could easily win the elections. But his waning support for that primary and into 2018 shows that many Tory voters were ready to leave him, political observers have said.
“There is certainly fatigue within the Republican Party over Arpaio’s legacy,” Chuck Coughlin, a Phoenix-based Republican consultant, told The Arizona Republic. “I think in the last election cycle most Republicans were convinced he can’t win a general election. The common sense solution is to try someone else.”
Racial profiling court case
While Arpaio has loyal supporters, his approach to tackling crime and enforcing immigration law has discouraged many Republican voters.
A federal judge found that Arpaio and Sheridan had committed civil contempt of court over a racial profiling case. Another judge in the racial profiling case found that Arpaio MPs racially profiled Latino motorists during immigration raids.
More:What to Know About NY AG’s Attempt to Dismantle the NRA
In 2011, the judge told Arpaio to stop the raids, but he continued with them. Sheridan had claimed he was unaware of the judge’s order.
Arpaio was charged with criminal contempt of court, and in 2017 the former sheriff was convicted of willfully violating an order of a federal judge. President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio before his conviction.
Sheridan has not been charged due to the statute of limitations.
Sheridan ‘has a tough fight’ against Penzone
Due to the legal tangle and past policies on immigration law enforcement, Sheridan could struggle in the general election against Penzone, Republican consultants have said.
Barrett Marson, a Republican consultant in Phoenix, said Sheridan “has a tough fight.”
Marson said that although Penzone is a Democrat, he had Republican support. But with Arpaio out of the picture, non-state donors could lose interest in the race.
In 2016, immigrant rights groups rallied around Penzone to help defeat Arpaio. And billionaire and philanthropist George Soros gave $ 2 million to Maricopa Strong, a political action committee that helped defeat Arpaio.
“What is not clear at this time is whether the liberal groups that spent a lot in 2016 to defeat Joe Arpaio will come to Arizona and spend similar amounts to defeat a former subordinate,” Marson said.
Penzone, in an earlier statement, said he was looking forward to the general election.
“As Sheriff of Maricopa County, I removed the policy and focused on restoring the office to an ethical, professional and transparent organization,” he said. “
Penzone was elected sheriff with the help of immigrant advocates, but he disagreed with some of them during his nearly four years in office. Advocates wanted him to stop allowing immigration officials in his prisons who screen inmates for immigration status.
He continued to allow them and pre-trial detainees were deported.
Penzone defended the policy, saying it was a public safety measure and not a partisan issue.
Lawyers also criticized Penzone’s handling of court orders related to Arpaio’s racial profiling case. A recent report found that Hispanic and black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be detained longer or searched by lawmakers during traffic stops.
Follow Uriel Garcia on Twitter @ujohnnyg.