Arpaio was defeated in a tight race for mayor of Fountain Hills, the opulent suburb he has called home for more than two decades. The race marked his third ill-fated comeback bid since voters ejected him from the sheriff’s office in 2016, ending a 24-year tenure.
It was a game of inches. Two-term incumbent Mayor Ginny Dickey edged her firebrand opponent by just 213 votes when all was said and done. Dickey received 5,420 to Arpaio’s 5,207 in final results released on Wednesday.
On Friday morning, Dickey told Phoenix New Times that Arpaio’s “negative approach filled with innuendo, untruths, and caricatures failed and alienated a large segment of our community.”
Arpaio said he’s not conceding the race just yet. He cited stale claims of election fraud in the 2020 general election, when his “best friend” and “hero,” former president Donald Trump, left the office in disgrace just as Arpaio did six years ago.
Arpaio said he plans to consult a lawyer and challenge the result of the election, although the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office said it’s now counted all the votes. Despite the margin being razor-thin, it wasn’t enough to trigger a recount.
Arpaio billed himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but the longest-serving sheriff in history botched hundreds of sex crime investigations and racked up nearly $150 million in taxpayer-funded legal bills following decades of human and civil rights violations at his jails.
“They don’t want me,” Arpaio correctly predicted in an interview with New Times before the election. “They threw age at me, threw racial stuff at me.”
Sheriff Paul Penzone dethroned Arpaio in 2016. One year later, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt in federal court for disobeying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling. He was pardoned by Trump.
Fountain Hills is one of a few small towns in the Valley that doesn’t have its own police department, instead contracting with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for police services. That didn’t sit well with Arpaio, who wanted to fire Penzone and hire another police department.
After the 2016 defeat to Penzone, Arpaio went on to finish third in a Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018 and second in the Republican primary in a 2020 stab at retaking the sheriff’s post.
In each comeback attempt, Arpaio lost the vote in Fountain Hills.
At 90 years old, Arpaio is still not done. If concedes the race, he told New Times for an extensive profile ahead of the election, “The next day, I go downtown, I turn in my papers that I’m running again. If they think I’m done, we’ll see.”
Arpaio, a Republican, lost to the progressive Democrat Dickey in conservative Fountain Hills despite outspending her nearly 10 to 1 and amassing the most campaign cash in town history with nearly $250,000.
“Unfortunately, this election brought unwanted national attention to our community, including unprecedented out-of-state money pouring into a normally modest local race based on divisive issues mostly irrelevant to Fountain Hills,” Dickey said. “Voters agree that Fountain Hills is an excellent place to live, one where campaigns cannot be bought despite being outspent many times over.”
On election night, Arpaio sat alone in his home, ate a microwaved dinner, and stared into the darkness.
During an interview in February, a more confident Arpaio told New Times, “Normally when you leave office, people forget you the next day. Well, they’re not forgetting me.”
Fountain Hills voters remember exactly what you’ve done, Joe.