Latinos in Phoenix went to bed last night with the news that they’ll face another four years of harassment from Joe Arpaio and his deputies. The 80-year-old sheriff told supporters at his victory party that he looks forward to another term “just enforcing the law,” by which he tends to mean racial profiling and prisoner abuse. The Arpaio victory is not a surprise, but it is a disappointment for immigrant and civil rights advocates who hoped the county was ready to turn a corner.
Arpaio’s victory came amid a generally good day for Republicans in the state, despite Democratic hopes that the party could turn the state by organizing Latino residents. Arizona has acted as a testing ground for far-right laws that incubated in the imaginations and white papers of conservative think tanks. Despite two years of organizing to register growing numbers of Latinos, and waning support for bills like the state’s SB 1070 in the face of broad national challenges, it appears that Arizona may still be a Tea Party petri dish.
Beyond Arpaio, conservative, anti-immigrant, law-and-order Republicans beat back moderate challengers. The race for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Sen. John Kyle went to another Republican, six-term Rep. Jeff Flake. He faced a formidoble challenge from Latino Democrat Richard Carmona.
Carmona’s pinned his hopes for victory on an unlikely push by the Obama campaign to take the state. Arizonans haven’t supported a Democrat for president since 1996, but the party hoped that by mobilizing enough Latino residents, they might turn the tide. In the end, it wasn’t enough and Romney and Flake won comfortably.
Carmona campaigned against SB 1070 and on a strong pro-immigration reform platform. Flake, who was once part of a GOP cohort who supported immigration reform, fled any such commitment as he called for thousands more troops sent to the border and expressed disappointment when the Supreme Court struck down parts of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law.