Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, announced that he’s running for his old job on Sunday, exactly two years after President Donald Trump pardoned him for a federal contempt-of-court conviction.
“Watch out world! We are back!” Arpaio, 87, said in a statement in which he promised to reinstate the extreme measures that made him famous, like housing immigrants in outdoor tents in the 100-degrees-plus temperatures of the Phoenix area.
Arpaio was defeated for re-election to what would have been a record seventh term as sheriff in November 2016, shortly after he was charged with contempt of court for having ignored a federal judge’s order to stop arresting immigrants solely on suspicion that they were in the country illegally.
Arpaio, who was one of the first elected officials to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, was convicted in July 2017. The next month, Trump pardoned him, saying he admired Arpaio’s work “protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”
Last year, Arpaio lost a primary race for the U.S. Senate to Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who went on to be elected in November.
Arpaio reveled in his reputation as America’s toughest sheriff, which led him to be the target of several civil rights lawsuits. He boasted that:
- He forced inmates to wear pink underwear
- He fed inmates only twice a day with a bland log called “Nutraloaf,” which other prisons serve as a disciplinary measure.
- He subjected inmates to an in-house radio station that played patriotic music and opera for 20 hours a week. He called the station KJOE.
In 2008 and 2010, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio’s jails violated the constitutional rights of inmates when it came to medical care.
Arpaio was also famous for housing prisoners in outdoor tents that he himself called concentration camps, where inmates complained that fans were inoperative and that their shoes melted.
He was reported to have responded to the complaints by saying, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq, and the soldiers are living in tents, and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths.”
In his announcement on Sunday, Arpaio lamented that “the last four years have proven to be a time of lost opportunities to continue the kind of tough policing this county needs.”
And he warned that his enemies would do their worst to make sure he isn’t re-elected.
“During the past several years, his opponents, activists and political figures on the Left, have utilized slanderous attacks on him through the fake and biased news media to try and keep him from being heard, but these efforts have failed,” the statement said. “However, he expects these attacks will continue in full force, even more so with today’s announcement.”
Arpaio’s opponents are likely to include Jerry Sheridan, who strongly supported Arpaio as his deputy for the last six years he was sheriff.
Sheridan announced in February that he is also seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Sheriff Paul Penzone, who defeated Arpaio with 56 percent of the vote in 2016.