Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) swung by Arizona yesterday, hoping to get Arpaio’s endorsement for her presidential bid. A week or so ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry began reaching out for the Sheriff’s support. Yesterday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gave him a call. Even longshot candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain has attempted to kiss the Arpaio ring.
Arpaio refers to himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” and an endorsement from him would shore up any candidate’s reputation for being tough on immigration. They need it, because none of the frontrunners are sufficiently hardliner (read: xenophobic) enough for today’s mass deportation Tea Party Republicans.
At the last debate, Romney came out heavily in favor of a border fence and against the DREAM Act, but in 2006 he supported then-President Bush’s attempt at comprehensive immigration reform and explicitly endorsed a path to citizenship. Arpaio feels kinship for Texas and for Perry, but the Texas Governor opposed Arizona’s SB 1070. He said it wasn’t right for Texas, supported his state’s DREAM Act, and has even made sympathetic noises about giving undocumented students an opportunity to succeed in their adopted country. Roy Beck, the president of anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA, has called Michele Bachmann “the best among a bunch of poor choices,” but added that she “hasn’t stood out on immigration, even when she had the chance to cosponsor legislation to limit it.”
And so, the candidates are courting and pursuing the Sheriff, ignoring the fact that a valentine from him could cost them in the long run. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his gross abuses of the law are noxious to the Hispanic community, and a relationship with him would be sure to cost his favorite candidate the Latino vote.
As Frank Sharry, Executive Director here at America’s Voice, said:
The candidates who are kissing Arpaio’s ring in the primaries may be kissing their chances of winning the general election goodbye by associating with him. He has a national reputation in the Hispanic community as a guy who targets Latinos.
After all, this is the man that the Dallas Observer today called a “walking civil rights violation”; he brought chain gangs back to Arizona and once forced a pregnant woman to give birth while handcuffed. He regularly conducts raids for undocumented immigrants with machine guns and tanks (last time, his team “euthanized” more than 100 roosters and shot a puppy), and ransacks prison funds to pay for them. He’s so busy hunting down immigrants that he’s neglected to investigate 400 sex crimes cases and allowed violent crime in his jurisdiction to surge 58% while the rest of Arizona saw a 12% fall. He’s currently under two federal investigations. This is one toxic belle of the ball.
In any case, it looks like Arpaio is playing hard to get. The Sheriff was Mitt Romney’s honorary Arizona chairman in 2008, but he has said kind words about Rick Perry (“I kind of like the guy”), and has indicated that he’ll hold off making a 2012 endorsement for now. It looks like the GOP crowd will have to redouble their efforts, and really break out those chocolates and flowers.
For more about where the GOP candidates stand on immigration, check out our report “Why Do Elephants Put Their Heads in the Sand?”