Phoenix, Arizona – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is leading campaign fundraising efforts by a large margin over challengers vying for his office in November, and a recent analysis of contributions shows that the incumbent lawman received about 80 percent of his funds from out-of-state donors.
The Arizona Republic reports that the five-term Republican sheriff raised more than $140,000 from Arizona donors and reaped more than $800,000 from out-of-state contributors from Jan. 1 through May 31.
Arpaio's campaign had $3.4 million on hand at the end of that period, while his challengers had much smaller amounts.
His closest financial challenger, former Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone, has raised more than $140,000 since January, with fewer than 3 percent of his donors from outside Arizona.
While more than 2,700 of Arpaio's donors are Arizonans, 12,000 are from outside the state. Two metro Phoenix ZIP codes that include parts of Sun City and Youngtown account for the largest numbers of in-state supporters.
California provided Arpaio's largest out-of-state base of support, followed by Texas and Florida. That support is in large part the result of the sheriff's role as a national figure in the immigration-enforcement movement.
The federal government's lawsuit alleging that Arpaio's office engages in widespread racial profiling, a suit that was filed in the middle of the last fundraising period, also helped to solidify that national support, said Chad Willems, Arpaio's campaign manager. Arpaio's campaign saw a spike in donations after the U.S. Department of Justice filed its civil-rights lawsuit in May.
"Being in any lawsuit is not something someone asks for, certainly not a lawsuit with the most powerful government in the world," Willems said. "Good folks around the state and around the country (have) decided to step up and support someone who they feel is being railroaded for doing a job."
Penzone, a Democrat, believes financial backing he has drawn is driven, in part, by the same factors driving Arpaio's out-of-state support.
Lawyers "have the clearest understanding of the true intricacies of the legal system, and indirectly we all have an investment. They're expressing how offended they are with the performance of the sheriff's office," Penzone said.
Independent Mike Stauffer, who is retiring as a Scottsdale police lieutenant, has raised nearly $6,000 since January and borrowed nearly $40,000.
John Rowan, a former Goodyear police employee who is Penzone's sole competitor in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary, has run on a shoestring budget of $1,200 in contributions and a $10,000 loan.
Stauffer's campaign manager, West Kenyon, said the public is too obsessed with tracking political success through campaign-finance reports. He said the number of unaffiliated voters and their fatigue with the two-party system could lead to surprises in November.