Democratic candidate for Maricopa County sheriff Paul Penzone spoke with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Tuesday for two reasons: To clear the air about an accusation leveled against him by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and to urge the sheriff to run a clean campaign ahead of November’s vote.
“When your opponent spends over $1 million to put a lie out there to try to get people to view you through a lens that’s untruthful, it’s as much about who I am as a person and how it affects my family as it is about the pursuit of this office,” he said.
Penzone ran against Arpaio in 2012. Just before the early ballots were mailed out, Arpaio’s campaign released a commercial that accused Penzone of abusing his estranged wife in 2003, something Penzone fervently denied. The couple later divorced.
Penzone said the incident happened in 2003 and he informed the media it happened prior to his first run for sheriff.
“When I entered the race, I recognized you have to address those issues, so I gave the report out to all the media to make sure that there were no questions and everyone could look into it as they chose to,” he said.
“I always do my best to be transparent and honest,” Penzone said. “I was forthright when I filed the report, I was forthright in 2012 and the truth doesn’t change.”
Nothing ever came of the incident report, though it is a matter of public record. After Arpaio released the ad, Penzone’s ex-wife stepped in to defend him.
“Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s campaign commercial portraying Paul as physically aggressive during our marriage was inaccurate and misleading. It was, in my opinion, dirty politics and the use of family against an opponent is totally off-base,” she wrote in a signed affidavit.
Penzone said, at first, the ad was nothing more than politics. But when it began to affect his family and friends, he felt Arpaio had gone too far.
“Politics has gone too far to this place where we act as though it’s OK to put out information – claiming absence of malice or just not enough information – to attack the character of another,” he said.
Penzone said he knows Arpaio may attack him again this election cycle, which is why he wanted to explain the matter. But he also called for the sheriff to run a clean race.
“To be a professional investigator running a police department and to take something like this and misrepresent it defies everything that we should stand for,” he said.
In return, Penzone said he also plans to take the high road.
“I am committed to not attack my opponent, his character or to treat him in some disrespectful manner,” he said. “I will talk about issues and policies.”
Penzone said he knows Arpaio personally and has always had respectful discussions with him outside of the public eye. He hopes the sheriff will extend that respect to the race and will agree to meet with him in a forum-type event to discuss public safety matters rather than false accusations.
“We have a chance – the two of us – to make this about the safety of the community, to make this about what it means to be a respectful law enforcement leader,” he said.
But should things turn ugly, Penzone hopes Arpaio will at least do it in a way that gives him a fair chance to respond because he would offer the same.
If I have something derogatory to say about his record or these issues, I will stand next to him and make the same statement to him in person … to give him the chance to respond,” Penzone said.
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