By Carmen Llona
As Sheriff Joe Arpaio gets ready to serve another four years in Maricopa County, where Phoenix, Ariz. is located, numerous opponents and critics are trying to figure out how to co-exist with the self proclaimed “Toughest Sheriff of America.”
Some are not even willing to accept his victory just yet, saying that some 300,000 provisional ballots still need to be counted.
“That’s 40 percent of the vote,” said Dora Luna, from Promise Arizona in Action, an immigrant advocacy organization. “We are demanding that Maricopa County release a public statement saying that the election should not have been decided.”
I would hope to get together with the Latino community, if I could ever have them talk to me without screaming and threatening me
- Sheriff Joe Arpaio
But Tuesday night, Arpaio’s main challenger, Democrat Paul Penzone, conceded and by midnight the 80-year-old law man was celebrating the imminence of a sixth term.
According to the results released by the Arizona Secretary of State, Arpaio took 53 percent of the votes on Election Night, some 88,000 votes ahead of Penzone. This is why opponents say it is key to count each and every provisional ballot, which they say multiplied in this election due to a number of irregularities at the polls.
In the meantime, Latino opponents are barely taking notice of the olive branch olive handed by Arpaio shortly after he claimed victory.
"I would hope to get together with the Latino community, if I could ever have them talk to me without screaming and threatening me," Arpaio said. "I hope to get together with the community and try to explain what we do, so that's going to be one of my missions coming up."
This was a somewhat remarkable change in tone for the sturdy sheriff, who is facing a number of lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the U.S. Justice Department accusing him of civil rights violations and racial discrimination against Latinos.
Luna, from Promise Arizona, says it’s clear that Arpaio is finally aware of the importance of the Latino community in Maricopa County.
“That is why he wants to sit down with us, he is now scared of the power of Latinos,” she said. “He is more scared of the Latino power than we are scared of him,” she added, noting too the $8 million spent on his campaign (opponent Penzone raised just $527,000).
Arpaio has denied any discrimination or civil rights violations, and on Election Night he said he has no intention of changing his policies in his sixth term.
"I have a message for the president of the United States of America. He's gone after me from the White House, the Department of Justice, the FBI, I can go on and on. But I will continue to enforce all the laws, including illegal immigration," Arpaio told supporters. "Nothing changes."
Arpaio's war against undocumented immigrants has made him a national political figure and a lightening rod when it comes to Latino issues. He has garnered national attention for his hard-line stance against illegal immigration, in a state where Latinos account for more than 30 percent of the population.
“Let’s see what he has to say,” said Luna about the hypothetical sit-down with Arpaio. “Let’s see what kind of drama he wants to bring this time to the media. He is someone who cares more for his public figure than for public safety,” she added.