As a "Joe's Got to Go" citizens movement ramps up its campaign and a groundswell of support grows daily for Maricopa County sheriff candidate Paul Penzone, notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio is facing the most serious challenge to his 20-year career from several different fronts.
A searing new ad by longtime Phoenix activist Devon Fleenor seeks to broaden the outrage over Arpaio's "widespread" reign of racial profiling and civil rights violations, and draw attention to the 80-year-old Sheriff's bungling of hundreds of sex crimes investigations, including child molestation and rape.
As opposed to Arpaio's huge war chest of out-of-state donors, Fleenor has launched an online campaign to raise funds to place the ad on Maricopa County area TV stations.
"I can't help but wonder what Arpaio's out-of-state donors would think if they saw this ad and knew about the sex crimes scandal," wrote Julie Erfle, the widow of a slain Phoenix police officer. "Would they still consider Arpaio "tough on crime?" And what about all the national Republican candidates who have clamored for his endorsement? Would they really want to be seen with a guy who let rapists and child molesters walk free? One would hope not."
Here's the ad:
As I reported last year, reports on Arpaio's extraordinary incompetence and oversight on the sexual abuse cases in the Phoenix-area community of El Mirage have been well-documented for years -- an ABC15 investigation spring of 2011 noted that "children who had the courage to come forward and say they were molested, raped or abused were simply ignored by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detectives." In 2009, reporters from the East Valley Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for their series, "Reasonable Doubt," on the human and economic costs of Arpaio's reckless operations.
In his new book, If There Were Any Victims, former assistant Phoenix police chief Bill Louis explores how Sheriff Arpaio "failed" these victims. "At this point there is little that can be done to undo the harm they have endured."
For a galvanized new civil rights movement and their allies in Maricopa County -- and across Arizona -- bringing down Sheriff Arpaio in this fall's election will be the first step in the right direction.
Follow Jeff Biggers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffrbiggers