Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio with his wife, Eva, speaks to supporters… (Matt York/Associated Press )
Voters in Arizona’s Maricopa County have reelected Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the face of Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law.
With 82% of the county’s precincts reporting, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in America won a sixth term convincingly with 53% of the vote.
Arpaio, 80, is best known for vigorously cracking down on illegal immigrants in his county — moves that won him admirers in and outside Arizona but also created a fissure dividing Latinos and law enforcement.
He was one of the state’s most vocal supporters of SB 1070, which requires law enforcement officers to check the papers of anyone they suspect is an illegal immigrant. The Supreme Court struck down other provisions of the law, but ruled that the so-called "show your papers" provision was constitutional. Immigrants however, are not required to carry their immigration papers on them at all times.
“I would like to get together with the Latino community, but they scream at you and I just can’t sit down” with them, Arpaio told a local NBC affiliate in Arizona on Tuesday night. “We’ll let them get their senses, we’ll talk and I’ll let them know what I do… I have to get back to the Latino community without them screaming and yelling and we can talk about it.”
Arpaio’s career is apparently coated in Teflon, with his candidacy surviving a federal investigation into corruption, a lawsuit into civil rights violations, and findings by Maricopa County investigators that his department misused $99 million in jail funds.
Democrat Paul Penzone received about 42% of the vote and Independent Mike Stauffer had about 4%.
Meanwhile, in Pinal County to the south, openly gay Paul Babeu has won a second term as sheriff.
With 72 of 102 precincts reporting, Bebeu had 53% of the vote.
Bebeu, a Republican, held off three primary challengers during the primary and Democrat and Independent candidates Tuesday night.
The 43-year-old Bebeu had been running for Congress but pulled out when the Phoenix New Times revealed in February that he was gay and had had a bitter falling out with a former lover who was an illegal immigrant. The story included photos of a shirtless Bebeu that had appeared on gay dating website. Bebeu, who had built a reputation as a no-nonsense lawman who cracked on illegal immigration, said his personal life was his own business and many in his department stood by him.
Bebeu first came into the national spotlight in a reelection campaign ad in 2010 for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.