Arizona AG: Joe Arpaio's Protégé Prepares to Run

I pride myself on being at least vaguely aware of what's going on politically in every state in the country. But, events in Maricopa ...
by | April 2, 2010

I pride myself on being at least vaguely aware of what's going on politically in every state in the country. But, events in Maricopa County, Arizona over the last year have strained my powers of discernment.

Essentially, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the legendarily controversial conservative crime fighter, has joined up with his ally, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, to engage in a death struggle with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Everyone is accusing everyone else of corruption, lots of lawyers are involved and there are new developments all the time. If you want to get a feel for this, just look at the "County Craziness" tag on the Phoenix New Times' Valley Fever blog. But, I still couldn't quite tell you what is behind all of this.

Anyway, the interesting new development is that Thomas is going to run for attorney general. From the Arizona Republic:

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, an archconservative who has become a lightning rod for many of county government's political controversies, resigned Thursday to run for Arizona attorney general this fall.


The announcement came as a surprise to political and legal insiders, who presumed Thomas was too deeply wounded by the string of recent high-profile legal losses against county officials and Superior Court judges. He announced his intention to run despite being the subject of an FBI investigation to determine whether he abused his prosecutorial powers during those cases.

Thomas definitely doesn't have the Republican primary to himself. Tom Horne, the elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction, also plans to run. From what I can tell, Horne also is a conservative. Still, he doesn't seem to quite be a conservative in the mold of Arpaio and Thomas. So, this looks like a third notable Arizona Republican primary (along with the race for U.S. senator and the race for governor) that will be fought along ideological lines.

At 77, Arpaio's political career isn't quite over (he's 15 years younger than Robert Byrd), but he's old enough for us to wonder whether he has an ideological successor in Arizona politics. Thomas is only in his forties and he already has one respectable statewide race under his belt -- he was the Republican nominee for attorney general in 2002. But, he may be too damaged from all of this confusing, complicated controversy to become the new Joe Arpaio. Or is controversy what makes someone the new Joe Arpaio?

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

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