Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday appeared to be cruising to a fifth-term in office, clobbering his Democratic challenger Dan Saban in a nasty campaign loaded with attacks ads and personal insults.
With most of the early ballots counted and more than 30 percent of the precincts reporting, Arpaio held a commanding lead over Saban.
Arpaio, a Republican who was elected to office in 1992, overcame growing criticism and slumping approval ratings to soundly defeat Saban for the second time in four years. In 2004, Saban tried unsuccessfully to beat Arpaio in the Republican primary.
Meanwhile, it appeared the Maricopa County would stay in the hands of Republicans as GOP candidates in other countywide races retained their seats in mostly non-competitive campaigns.
Saban believed he could ride the growing number of registered Democratic voters to victory. But in the end, Saban was unable overcome Arpaio, who held an enormous financial edge and is still extremely popular among his party as well as independent voters.
“There was controversy in the media this year, but this is a victory for the people of the county,” Arpaio said Tuesday night.
The sheriff then pledged to continue his controversial policies on issues ranging from the treatment of inmates in his jails to illegal immigration.
The sheriff and county attorney’s races were among the most anticipated and watched races of the county this year as Democrats were attempting to take the county’s top law enforcement jobs.
However, Democrats did not run candidates in any of the other countywide races. Republicans Helen Purcell was re-elected as County Recorder; Don Covey won the County School Superintendent race; Keith Russell was re-elected as Assessor; and Charles “Hos” Hoskins retained his job as Treasurer.
Arpaio shattered all fund raising records this year for candidates running in countywide races, raising nearly $600,000 to Saban’s $160,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports. The longtime sheriff also benefited from an enormous voter registration in the county leans heavily towards Republicans.
Although some polls this year showed Arpaio’s approval ratings had slipped to 54% among all voters, he still maintained high marks within his party as well as among independent voters who political pollsters said support the sheriff in droves.
Throughout the campaign, Arpaio refused to publicly debate Saban and even declined to comment on his opponent. Saban repeatedly called Arpaio a coward because he refused to debate.
The race took an even uglier turn when an independent expenditure group led by an official in the Sheriff’s office paid for a television ad accusing Saban of a number of improprieties.
This year, Arpaio has dealt with growing criticism from running budget deficits to his controversial immigration policies. Recently, sheriff’s deputies raided government buildings in Mesa searching for suspected illegal immigrants.