July 23, 2004
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is confident about his re-election prospects. Why not? Election histo ry, poll numbers and funds col lected all favor the larger-than life politician.
"I’m confident However, in politics you have to continuously get the sup port of the public. I have that," Arpaio said. "I just go to the people and ask them to hire me again."
So what can retired police commander Dan Saban whose June 30 campaign finance report showed $471.90 in cash, do to end Arpaio’s tenure at three terms? Get the mind-set of a warrior.
He compares the race for the Sept. 7 Republican pri mary election against Arpaio with the struggle of William Wallace, the man depicted in the 1995 movie "Braveheart," who united 13th century Scots against English rule.
"We’ve got sticks and stones and rocks and clubs and he’s the completely outfitted militia, but it can be done," Saban said.
Saban points to the support he’s received from law enforcement and firefighters, which includes every major police union in the county including unions of county deputies.
He points to the community leaders listed as backers on his Web site.
He points to his truck tires, which he had to replace after wearing out a set driving from function to function trying to get his word out.
"Each week I get another endorsement, another endorsement, another major endorsement and that little grass roots adds to my bigger grass roots," Saban said.
Arpaio’s refrain is he is a man of the people. He says to look at the tally from the 2000 primary election where he got 74 percent of the vote against Jerry Robertson, a retired sheriff’s deputy.
He says to look at his popularity, which is documented in a February poll conducted by the Behavior Research Center.
That poll of 600 registered voters found that 71 percent of Republican respondents believe he is doing a good or excellent job and 62 percent of all respondentseither probably or definitely would vote for him.
"I always stick around 70, 75 percent," Arpaio said. "You talk about popularity, I earned that. I worked hard at it."
He says to look at his most recent campaign finance report, which has $204,646 in cash on hand.
Saban said all of that is the result of "smoke and mirrors" and he believes voters are tired of the "dog and pony show."
"They want to take this position back to law enforcement," Saban said.
Saban said he is a proven police executive, having just retired from the Mesa Police Department where he learned budget discipline by having to be accountable for every dollar spent.
"I’m going to bring that mentality to the county what I learned in the city," Saban said.
He said he won’t start other programs until the basic police functions such as correcting low response times, a safe jail, serving warrants, crime scene investigation and keeping records is 100 percent effective.
For instance, Mesa police couldn’t start up a bicycle unit until it was proven there was a need for it, where as the publicity-savvy Arpaio can start any program he wants "because it looks good or to try to get him some selfpromotion," Saban said.
Arpaio said he has saved the county millions of dollars by serving cheap meals in the jails, getting rid of coffee and housing inmates in tents.
An April 2003 Tribune investigation showed, however, that lawsuits filed against his office have cost the county more than $13.7 million. More than one-third of that payout comes from 10 cases, half of which involve similar allegations of excessive force causing injuries and death.
When he looks to the future, Arpaio said he too wants to reduce response times and put more deputies on the street and in the jails.
He wants to hire 1,000 people to work in the newly constructed jail that is set to open partially in September and fully a month later, and he must decide when to close the old Madison Street Jail in Phoenix for a two-year renovation project.
The race has already had some controversy.
Saban said Arpaio was politically motivated in investigating allegations that he raped his adoptive mother 30 years ago.
Arpaio said he did nothing more than assign a couple of detectives to speak with the woman who sent him an e-mail containing the allegations and he didn’t even know which candidate to whom she was referring.
After taking the report, his office farmed out the investigation to Pima County, which declined to investigate because the statute of limitations had expired, Arpaio said.
The woman was characterized as a "pathological liar" by her other foster children and family members who were interviewed by an investigator hired by Saban, according to notarized depositions.
"The only thing he can do is attack me personally," Saban said.
Arpaio said he is not going to "go negative" on his opponent. Whoever wins in the primary will have a challenge in the general election from Democrat Robert Ayala and independent W. Steven Martin.