[Via Arpaionews at YouTube]
PHOENIX—Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for hard-line stance on illegal immigration, announced this afternoon that he will not run for Arizona governor this year.
"It was a tough decision, especially because this time around even my wife encouraged me run and I'm pretty convinced I would have won," Mr. Arpaio said in an interview on Monday. In a statement, Mr. Arpaio added that leaving his 18 years as sheriff didn't "make sense right now" because of the situation in Arizona. "We are standing in the cross-hairs of history in this state and as Sheriff of the most populous county in Arizona, there is much work yet to do."
Arizonans have speculated for months over whether Mr. Arpaio, who calls himself "the toughest sheriff in America," would seek a nomination in the Republican primary. The 77-year-old lawman has flirted with the idea of running for years, but has never thrown his hat in the ring. "This was the time I considered it most seriously," said Mr. Arpaio. "But you never know in politics, never say never. I could run in four years."
An Arpaio run would have injected fresh fuel into the immigration debate raging across the state. Immigration has been the top political topic here since Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial immigration enforcement law last month. Widely considered of the toughest measure of its kind, the new law makes it a crime for people in the U.S. illegally to be in Arizona, and requires police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they stop whom they suspect might be in the country illegally.
"My office has been enforcing federal immigration law for three years," said Mr. Arpaio. "In that time, we have investigated arrested and detained 38,000 illegal aliens, without any problems. The new law just gives us a little extra tool to continue enforcing the illegal immigration law."
Mr. Arpaio first drew national attention in the 1990s when he adopted get-tough measures such as forcing the prisoners in his jail to wear pink underwear, a policy intended to be humiliating. He has also routinely conducted crime sweeps and crackdowns on illegal immigrants, often in areas that are heavily Hispanic. Though he retains strong support among voters in Maricopa County, where he has won reelection by wide margins, others insist his tactics are excessive.
But but but ... why not? Especially when he's favored to win the GOP nomination? Could it have something to do with this note?
Had he chosen to run for governor, Arizona law would have forced him to resign his post as Maricopa County sheriff.
Longtime Phoenix news anchor Brahm Resnick has some insights as to why this might be a problem for Arpaio:
Try this thought experiment: Joe Arpaio announces Monday he's running for governor, he then leaves office (as he must under the resign-to-run law), and his enemies at the Maricopa County Board, likely on the advice of their hand-picked new county attorney Rick Romley, get to pick Arpaio's successor.
We saw what Romley did after he took over from Andrew Thomas, who left to run for attorney general. Romley decapitated the top staff in the county attorney's office, then went about launching investigations to see what really went on under Thomas, who is reportedly being investigated by a grand jury.
Imagine the same scenario should Arpaio depart, only with potentially more dire consequences for MCSO, Arpaio and the commander who really runs the department, David Hendershott -- also reportedly under grand jury investigation along with Arpaio.
With the legal stakes so high, Arpaio cannot allow an outside set of eyes to peer into the heart of the department he has run for almost two decades.
Arpaio will say he's staying put out of loyalty to the people in his department. The truth is, he doesn't dare leave.
As predicted, you can see in the video above that Arpaio does indeed claim he's staying out of loyalty, yadda yadda yadda. You can also see on Arpaio's face as he made the announcement that it was like passing kidney stone: He's really not happy that he doesn't get to run. He could taste it, but he knows the lid will come off sooner rather than later if he does it.
Resnick also explains why he doesn't think Arpaio would have won in the general election, which is a more than plausible analysis.