Arizona’s Joe Arpaio has been ousted from the Maricopa County sheriff’s seat, losing Tuesday’s election to retired Phoenix police sergeant Paul Penzone.
Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County for six contentious terms. He maintained what human rights groups called the “harshest jail system in the United States.” He brought back chain gangs and forced prisoners to live in his infamous “Tent City,” which went uncooled during the summer and unheated during the winter.
More than 400 sexual assault cases reported to Arpaio’s office from 2004 to 2007, including dozens of alleged child molestations, were either poorly investigated or ignored altogether, according to a 2011 Associated Press report. Many of the victims were children of undocumented parents.
Advocates have also accused Arpaio of “terroriz[ing]” immigrant communities with widespread workplace raids on undocumented immigrants and racially profiling Latino drivers. On October 25, Arpaio was charged with criminal contempt of court for violating a court order stemming from a 2007 class action racial discrimination suit that claimed Arpaio’s deputies targeted Latinos for immigration sweeps and unlawful traffic stops.
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Penzone’s win came as no surprise to those following polls in the state. Polling conducted in August revealed that almost 60 percent of Maricopa County respondents viewed Arpaio unfavorably. More than half of respondents statewide reported the same, though Arpaio’s support dwindled the most in Maricopa County, where voters on Tuesday decided his fate.
Local activists, including the Bazta Arpaio campaign, held community canvassing events and voter registration drives leading up to Election Day in an effort to unseat Arpaio. Billionaire George Soros contributed $2 million to a political action committee working to defeat Arpaio.
Penzone, who nearly beat Arpaio in 2012, has vowed not to conduct raids on undocumented communities. In a 2012 meeting, he told activists, “There’s only so much money that can be spent to address deportations. I am not going to waste those dollars on people who are here pursuing citizenship or job opportunities and other things and not involved in criminal activities.”