PHOENIX — Longtime Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio may court controversy and scrutiny, but he has also managed to build a re-election campaign war chest into the millions.
Arpaio, bidding for a seventh term as a top metro Phoenix lawman, has raised about $10 million, most of it from non-Arizonans, surpassed the amount spent by both the winning and losing candidates in a typical congressional race.
An AP analysis showed Arizona accounted for 17 percent of contributions of more than $50. California was next at 16.6 percent, followed by Texas at 8.5 percent.
During an appearance on C-SPAN at the Republican National Convention in July, Arpaio laughed when the show host mentioned this was more than GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump had raised.
He didn’t laugh when the next question was why would he need that much for a sheriff’s campaign.
“I’m taking a lot of heat,” Arpaio said. “A lot elements want to get rid of me.”
The 84-year-old is facing the toughest campaign of his career. His political strength has gradually slipped over the past four election cycles.
Arpaio crushed the field in 2000, seven years after he took office, snagging 66.5 percent of the votes. His closest opponent managed 26.4 percent.
Over the next elections Arpaio won 56.7 percent to 30.7 and 55.2 percent to 42.2 percent,
His latest opponent, former Phoenix policeman Paul Penzone, came closer than anyone else ever has to giving Arpaio a battle in the 2012 election.
While Arpaio won with about 51 percent of the vote, Penzone, a Democrat, captured nearly 45 percent. (Editor’s note: Penzone has been a contributor to KTAR.com and a frequent guest on the air.)
Waning popularity isn’t Arpaio’s only challenge. The lawman who cultivated a national reputation for being tough on immigration is at risk of being charged in a contempt-of-court case.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow is considering whether to recommend criminal charges against the sheriff for ignoring court orders in a racial-profiling lawsuit.
The judge has denied a bid for leniency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.