By Amanda J. Crawford
The self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff” was re-elected to a sixth term yesterday in Arizona, defeating a retired police sergeant and overcoming opposition from Hispanic groups.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 80, a Republican, was defiant as he addressed supporters last night, criticizing the media for portraying the race as close and sending a message to Hispanics and President Barack Obama that he won’t back down from his controversial immigration enforcement. He said he would run again in four years.
“I will continue to enforce all the laws, including illegal immigration,” he said. “Nothing changes.”
The Associated Press said Arpaio won the race, defeating former Phoenix police sergeant Paul Penzone, a Democrat. The sheriff faced one of his toughest re-election battles in a 20- year tenure marked by national controversies, particularly his approach to cracking down on illegal immigration. Hispanic groups had organized opposition to Arpaio, registering voters and staging protests at almost every one of his public events.
Arpaio’s so-called “crime suppression” sweeps in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods had made him a hero to those seeking stricter immigration enforcement while angering the county’s growing Hispanic population population and drawing a U.S. Justice Department civil rights lawsuit.
Penzone, who raised just over a half million dollars, was outmatched by Arpaio, who raised more than $8 million from mostly out-of-state donors.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Arpaio was ahead 53 percent to 43 percent, according to results posted on the Maricopa County elections website.
Though tens of thousands of provisional and early ballots remain to be counted, Penzone conceded defeat last night. Even so, Penzone and his supporters are waiting for all votes to be counted, campaign manager Jake Adams said today in an interview.
Promise Arizona in Action, a Latino advocacy group that had helped register more than 34,000 new voters and worked to turn out voters for Penzone, said the race isn’t over. More than 300,000 early and provisional ballots remain to be counted, the group said in a statement. Arpaio was leading Penzone by about 90,000 votes.
A third candidate, independent Mike Stauffer, had about 4 percent of the vote.
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