The Petri Dish: Snohomish cowboy ready to take on ‘Sheriff Joe’ again

A presidential pardon in hand, Arizona’s “Sheriff Joe” may be getting ready to hitch up his spurs for another campaign.

The ink had barely dried on his legal absolution from President Donald Trump when Joe Arpaio, the nation’s best known Republican sheriff, started talking a little smack about returning to the arena of politics from which he got booted by voters in 2016.

The Snohomish area cowboy who helped kick out the controversial lawman in front of a national audience is ready to best him again.

“Anything he talks about doing politically is delusional. I’d love to do a round two with him,” said Ron Dotzauer, founder and chief executive officer of Strategies 360, a burgeoning consulting company headquartered in Seattle.

Democrat Paul Penzone, who lost to Arpaio in 2012, hired Strategies 360 to run his campaign for the rematch and it paid off with a convincing 12-point victory in November.

Dotzauer, whose career in Washington politics dates back to his days alongside U.S. Sen. Henry Jackson, said he had his doubts when his staff in Phoenix approached him about taking Penzone on as a client.

Among those asking was Stacy Pearson, an advisor to Penzone in the 2012 campaign who is now senior vice president of the company’s Arizona operation.

“I said, ‘Why? And they said we think we can beat him,’” Dotzauer recalled Monday. “I knew he was a bad man doing bad things. I honestly wasn’t sure we could beat him but my team in Phoenix convinced me we could do it.”

Penzone beat Arpaio by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. It’s impressive considering Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by four points in Maricopa County. Trump tallied 747,361 votes. Arpaio finished with 665,581 votes in the sheriff’s race. Penzone outperformed both with 861,757 votes.

Strategies 360 found a way to win over Trump voters to Penzone’s side.

Latino voters also rose up against the man whose manner of identifying and incarcerating undocumented immigrants had run afoul of the law. Arpaio was indicted in October on criminal contempt charges for failing to modify his tactics. He was convicted in July but pardoned before sentencing.

Trump, in discussing his pardon Monday, said the Obama Administration cost “Sheriff Joe” the election by targeting him with those charges.

“He lost in a fairly close election,” Trump said. “He would have won the election, but they just hammered him just before the election. I thought this was a very, very unfair thing to do.”

Dotzauer’s response: “Twelve points is not fairly close. He is completely ill-informed about the race.”

Dotzauer said the win in Arizona earned him “high fives and handshakes all over the country.”

Arpaio’s political plans now don’t include waiting for 2020 and a rubber match with Penzone. He’s talking about a 2018 bid for mayor of Phoenix, a seat in the state Legislature or even the U.S. Senate. Arizona’s GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, of whom Trump is not too fond, would be the ex-sheriff’s target.

Dotzauer wouldn’t mind getting involved.

“I’d love him to try and run again,” he said. “He’s not going to jail now. He’s done politically.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or by emailing to jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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