The upcoming Arizona Senate race got a major shake-up January 8th when former Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that he would run for the seat.
The man who models himself as “America’s toughest sheriff” is set to join a field of Republican candidates that already includes former state senator Kelli Ward, and is likely to include the current polling frontrunner Martha McSally.
Announcing that he would run for Senate is certainly an interesting turn of events for Arpaio – it wasn’t that long ago that Arpaio was scheduled to serve a jail sentence for criminal contempt before Trump issued him a Presidential pardon. At the time of his pardon, the White House issued a statement which said, “Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is (a) worthy candidate for a presidential pardon.”
In his statement where he announced his candidacy, Arpaio said, “I am running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again.”
Of course, given the fact that Arpaio was pardoned from a jail sentence combined with his hardline stance on immigration and his history of making the jails in Maricopa County some of the toughest, most miserable jails in the country, Joe Arpaio is no doubt going to run into a lot of controversy and criticism in his bid to make it to the Senate.
The question is, will it matter? If early polling is any indication, it may not. A poll from ABC15/OHPI shows Arpaio in a statistical tie for first place with Martha McSally. In this poll, Arpaio garners 29% of the vote compared to McSally’s 31% and Kelli Ward’s 25%.
What’s even more interesting, though, is how much the calculus changes based on the endorsements that each of these candidates might receive. In a hypothetical scenario where Donald Trump – Arpaio’s most likely and certainly largest potential supporter – choose to endorse him, Arpaio’s poll numbers place him comfortably in first place in the primary with 35% of the vote. Meanwhile, a McConnell endorsement would keep McSally polling relatively the same while an endorsement by the embattled Steve Bannon would actually hurt Kelli Ward’s chances considerably, dropping her down to just 12% in the hypothetical scenario where she is endorsed by Bannon, McSally is endorsed by McConnell, and Arpaio is endorsed by Trump.
Of course, controversial candidates typically have a much easier time winning a primary than they do winning a general election, and even if Arpaio manages to win the Republican nomination in Arizona, whether or not he would have a good chance of winning the general remains a big question mark.
Arpaio’s potential to win the primary combined with his likelihood of losing the general election has many Republican strategists worried.
“For the GOP, it’s a disaster if Arpaio wins (the primary),” said Republican Tyler Montague, who runs the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance. “His loss for the sheriff’s race is a bellwether for his Senate race in a general election.”
Due to this, many Democrats in Arizona see Arpaio’s Senate run as a gift, giving them a real chance at taking a seat Democrats haven’t been able to hold for the past thirty years. Granted, Democrats said the same thing during the Presidential primaries when Trump was leading, and we all know how that turned out.
In the meantime, Arpaio’s chances of winning the primary hinge heavily on whether or not he can successfully court a Trump endorsement. There’s no reason for Trump not to like Arpaio – the two have a lot in common – however, Trump has shown a tendency to shy away from candidates that he fears won’t win the general, which is what lead to him endorsing Luther Strange over Roy Moore in the recent Alabama special election.
If Trump does choose to endorse, Arpaio, though, it’ll make for yet another twist at a time when we thought politics couldn’t possibly get any more bizarre.
~ Conservative Zone