A group calling itself Respect Arizona filed papers on Thursday to recall Maricopa County’s controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“We believe Sheriff Arpaio has violated our trust and our dignity as citizens because too many people have suffered as a result of Sheriff Arpaio’s abusive practices and policies,” the group wrote on their newly launched website. “We believe business owners should not be unfairly harassed, workers unlawfully detained and families unjustly torn apart from raids that have nothing to do with public safety.”
The group must collect 350,000 signatures from Maricopa County residents in order to trigger a recall vote. The 80-year-old Arpaio has been in office since 1992, and was reelected to his sixth term in November.
Reacting to the launch of the recall campaign, Arpaio campaign manager Chad Willems said in a statement (PDF) that Respect Arizona “has no respect whatsoever for the voters or the political process,” and challenged them to release a list of donors.
“This group of sore losers simply cannot accept the choice of the voters made last year and now they will attempt to dupe the good people of Maricopa County,” the statement continued. “Therefore we call upon the Respect Arizona committee to publicly disclose their list of donors. If this recall effort is truly about respecting Arizona the committee should have no problem in being open and honest with Arizonans by disclosing who is paying for this effort.”
Arpaio, who’s made a name for himself by targeting undocumented immigrants and claiming to investigate President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, was targeted by a Department of Justice probe launched in 2008 that ultimately found in 2011 that his department committed a litany of civil rights violations, mainly against Hispanic-Americans. Meanwhile, as officers focused on racially-charged reports of undocumented immigrants, Arpaio let hundreds of sex crimes against children go without inquiry from 2005 through 2007, investigators said.
“I believe this effort is underway because of my stance on enforcing all the laws of our state including those pertaining to illegal immigration,” Arpaio said in a statement. “I have expressed a sincere desire to work with all members of our community toward common goals and have extended the olive branch even to those activists who have voiced such hate towards me. Still, if these people insist on a recall drive, I have faith in the people of Maricopa County.”