Move over Joe Arpaio, there’s an Independent Sheriff candidate in town!
Arizona’s Maricopa County Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio, best known for his outspoken endorsement of the state’s extreme SB 1070 immigration policy and his investigation of President Obama’s citizenship, is being challenged by Independent candidate Mike Stauffer, a former NYPD officer and Scottsdale Police Lieutenant. Two Democratic candidates are also in the race, and one will be the party’s nominee challenging Arpaio and Stauffer after an August primary. Why is it significant that there’s an independent candidate in the race? Because it will offer a thermometer test for the temperature of Arizona’s rapidly growing faction of independent voters, and whether they’ll support Independent candidates for office.
As for why Stauffer is running as an independent candidate, we’ll let him explain in his own words:
“As a 2012 candidate for the Office of the Sheriff of Maricopa County, I have taken a public stand to encourage a non-partisan race for sheriff. Law enforcement is not about partisan politics, it is about public safety, quality of life and doing the right thing. To that end, I have refiled as an Independent. While I have been a registered Republican my entire life, I believe that the extremist positions and the attempt to insinuate those positions into law enforcement taken by the Maricopa County Republican Committee and various Republican leaders in Maricopa County are incompatible with the principles of American law enforcement. It is time to change the tone of the debate and bring real, professional, impartial law enforcement leadership back to the MCSO. This move also restores the election of the sheriff back to the people of Maricopa County as a whole and not just to a small percentage of partisan voters.”
Despite the fact that electoral math guru Nate Silver already reminded us that “Arizona is probably not a swing state” earlier this spring, independent voters currently make up the second largest voting group in the state, after the Republican Party. While Arizona politics has recently been known on a national level for Arpaio’s antics and Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s finger pointing tarmac greeting of Obama, the state isn’t as extremely conservative as one would think, at least as measured by voter demographics. The number of “mavericky” registered Independents has risen sharply by 23% since John McCain’s 2008 run for President, and now sits at 1,210,241, 34% of all registered voters. With these statistics in light, we’re happy to shine the light Stauffer’s candidacy.
Stauffer recently turned in 29,764 signatures to meet a ballot access requirement of 19,410 signatures last month, although he’ll struggle to compete in a fundraising and communications battle against Sheriff Arpaio’s massive war chest. As the Huffington Post reported:
“The sheriff’s campaign fundraising this year appears untroubled, hauling in considerable sums from people living mostly outside the state. In January, he had $3.4 million, after accounting for $2.48 million in expenses, according to his campaign finance records.”
Stauffer’s campaign will attempt to unite Arizona’s Ron Paul Republicans, Independents, and Blue Dog Democrats to pull off an upset win over Arpaio, although it’s any wonder how he plans to compete against Sheriff Joe’s massive fundraising advantage. However, with Arizona’s recent surge of registered independent voters and Arpaio’s declining popularity, who knows what’s possible in November.
Stay tuned to see if Maricopa County independents can walk the walk to the voting booth (assuming they decide to support candidate Stauffer), after talking the talk on their paperwork.