Former Mesa police Cmdr. Dan Saban filed thousands of signatures with the county on Friday to get his name on the ballot, setting up a rematch with Joe Arpaio for Maricopa County sheriff.
Saban, who stepped down last week as police chief of Buckeye to focus on the race, turned in 8,040 signatures from registered voters throughout the county, far more than the 2,100 needed to qualify.
Saban ran against Arpaio four years ago in the Republican primary but switched parties for this run, thinking it would give him a better shot at unseating Arpaio.
Despite his optimism, Saban faces a daunting challenge in taking on a sheriff who has headed the department for 16 years and has enjoyed high approval ratings.
"I had a lot of success the last time, and I truly believe that the response I'm getting now has been even more incredible," Saban said Friday.
To win, he will first have to overcome a major registration disadvantage between Democrats and Republicans, something he thinks is possible.
"I'm getting a lot of support from moderate Republicans. I think they're getting fed up," he said.
Republicans in Maricopa County outnumber Democrats by about 200,000 voters, according to the latest registration figures.
But that's not the only problem he'll have to overcome, as Arpaio's approval ratings have routinely been above 60 percent.
Although recent surveys have shown some slippage, Arpaio's numbers are still stronger than those of almost any other elected official in Arizona.
To overcome that advantage, Saban will attempt to paint the sheriff as an irresponsible and "wasteful" guardian of tax- payer money. For example, he points to nearly $50 million paid out by the county sheriff's office in lawsuits since Arpaio was elected in 1992.
Saban also used the opportunity to assail Arpaio's tactics in going after those suspected of being in the country illegally.
Saban said Arpaio is "obsessed with illegal immigration" and should spend more time pursuing the 42,000 outstanding felony warrants in the county.