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Outspoken Tucson sheriff faces recall bid
Tea party group wants Dupnik out
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has never lost an election, but that was before his remarks assigning blame for the deadly Tucson, Ariz., shooting to political “vitriol” and calling Arizona “a mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
Now it’s Sheriff Dupnik who finds himself on the public-opinion hot seat. A group opposed to illegal immigration has begun an effort to recall the sheriff in a special election. Meanwhile, a Pima County tea party group is planning on holding a “Dump Dupnik” rally next week outside his office.
“I haven’t been a fan of Dupnik’s for a long time, but this really was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Tom Rompel, co-owner of Black Weapons Armory in Tucson. “He’s law enforcement. We expect ‘the facts, ma’am,’ not his opinion. He leans far left, always has, and frankly, people have had enough.”
Not that the sheriff should worry about turning in his badge just yet. Sheriff Dupnik has won election eight times, and he’s a Democrat in a Democrat-majority county. While some constituents were appalled by his comments, others have applauded his forthright indictment of the state’s political climate.
“He is not afraid to call the bullies out on their part in this mess. Civility without hate speech is our mission!” says the page in its description paragraph.
Sheriff Dupnik’s comments came about an hour after the Jan. 8 shooting that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who had been greeting constituents outside a Safeway.
At the time, little was known about the suspect, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner. Since then, Mr. Loughner has emerged as a mentally unstable ex-student who became focused on Ms. Giffords after asking her a bizarre question about control of language at a constituent gathering in 2007.
Conservatives have bristled at Sheriff Dupnik’s insinuation that Republicans and the tea party movement were somehow responsible for the rampage. The Pima County Tea Party Patriots plan to “indict” the sheriff at their rally for “politicizing the shootings, blaming free speech for the crime without evidence, failing to protect Giffords, failing to recuse himself from the investigation, and embarrassing the community in front of the nation,” according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Sheriff Dupnik’s office issued a statement Wednesday saying he would have no further comment on the shooting.
Dan Baltes, executive director of Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, said he began looking into the recall effort after being deluged by phone calls and e-mails from the group’s members, including many in Arizona. The eight-month-old organization is based in Salt Lake City in neighboring Utah.
“I’ve gotten e-mails from people who support the sheriff, who support what he did, and who want me to keep my nose out of it,” Mr. Baltes said. “But for every one of those, I’m getting 50 saying ‘Thank you,’ and that’s from Republicans and Democrats alike.”
The group needs to gather 90,809 valid signatures within 120 days to qualify the recall for the ballot. The recall would require a special election, which could be held at the earliest in March 2012, said Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson.
That’s a lot of signatures in a county with 485,629 registered voters. In order to oust Sheriff Dupnik, recall organizers would also have to make sure another candidate runs against him, and so far the sheriff is batting 1.000 against Republican challengers.
“He’s never been in a close race. He wins by huge margins,” said Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers. “He is widely respected and beloved public official. You want to run for office in this town, you want a picture of Clarence Dupnik standing next to you.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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