With the smear campaign Dan Saban faced in 2004 when running for sheriff of Maricopa County, it’s no wonder a theme of his second try at the seat this year is “truth and justice.”
At his campaign kickoff rally on Saturday, Saban said he is prepared for another nasty race against the sitting sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who handily defeated him four years ago.
“The thing about Joe Arpaio is that he’s grossly underestimated my resolve,” Saban said following the hourlong rally in the glitzy ballroom of a downtown Phoenix hotel. “I’m not intimidated.”
Four years ago, Arpaio’s office used public money to investigate Saban for a decades-old accusation — made by Saban’s foster mother — that was never substantiated. That investigation was then made public through a leak to a KNXV-TV (Channel 15) reporter who donated money to Arpaio’s re-election campaign.
Though Arpaio denied any involvement in the investigation or leak, some, including Saban, accused him of dirty tricks.
Saban sued Arpaio for defamation in Maricopa County Superior Court but lost the case last September.
This time, however, Saban hopes things will be different.
For one, he is running as a Democrat, which will likely allow him to run the race through to November.
Saban previously tried to defeat Arpaio in the Republican primary, and his run ended in September that year when GOP voters sent him packing.
Asked why he switched parties, Saban said he didn’t like what he saw behind the scenes with the state Republican party. “When you’re a candidate, you get to see the engine room,” he said.
Still, Saban said he believes law enforcement should be “nonpartisan” and plans to campaign on public safety issues, not political ones.
Among his supporters this year is former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley, a Republican who often battled with Arpaio.
“You know it’s time for a change when (Arpaio’s) anger is focused not just on the criminals, it’s focused on anyone who disagrees with him,” Romley said at the rally, echoing the theme of change, which has become a buzz word in campaigns nationwide.
On the politically hot-button issue of illegal immigration, Saban declined to directly say whether he would handle enforcement the same way as Arpaio, who has made headlines by training deputies to seek out and arrest suspected illegal immigrants.
He said he was working with the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police to decide on a policy, and he plans to make an announcement in about two weeks.