It was only a matter of time before the next chapter in the Joe Arpaio saga came around.
Who is he? To most Floridians, he may not be a familiar figure. But Arpaio, a longtime sheriff in Arizona, had people of Hispanic or Latino descent in Maricopa County living in fear.
He prides himself in the nickname, “America’s toughest sheriff.” He set up “Tent City Jail” in Phoenix, where inmates endured the blistering summers in temperatures that surpassed 100 degrees. He had a habit of encouraging his deputies to racially profile and illegally detain Hispanics without evidence that they committed a crime.
His actions were so egregious, the U.S. Department of Justice found he oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history and subsequently filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct. In his 24 years as sheriff, the taxpayer-funded government office paid more than $146 million in fees, settlements and court awards.
Arpaio made headlines again in August when President Donald Trump pardoned him, sparing him a six-month jail sentence, despite the fact that Arpaio had clearly broken the law.
But none of this is new. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported Arpaio would be running for a Senate seat.
The prospect of someone who discriminated against and vilified the very people he wants to represent is shocking.
And even if you’re sitting in your apartment thinking this couldn’t possibly affect you in Gainesville, it can and will, especially if Arpaio is successful. As a senator, a man who has repeatedly broken the laws he was charged to enforce in Arizona would be in a position to shape legislation enacted across the country. He’d be given a national stage to promote his racist opinions. He’d normalize a tolerance of racism and bigotry in Congress. In a perfect world, elected representatives take all of the opinions and backgrounds of those they represent into consideration. That reality, however, is far from common, and nothing in Arpaio's track record indicates he would so much as listen to the roughly 2.1 million Hispanics he would represent.
Arpaio will never be Florida’s senator, but he will still be your senator if elected — one of 535 people in Congress charged with shaping and revoking the laws that dictate your rights, your freedom and your ability to be yourself without living in fear.
While we know you, dear reader, will likely not get a chance to vote in Arizona, we encourage you to stay informed, to challenge hate when you see it and to stand up for others. As our own gubernatorial elections near, we hope you consider all who can be affected by policy changes.
People like Joe Arpaio do not deserve your vote.