Former Arizona congressman Matt Salmon, who shot himself in the foot while running for governor last year, is now taking aim at fellow Republican Joe Arpaio. He wants to help former Valley deejay W. Steven Martin unseat the popular Maricopa County sheriff, but he could end up shooting himself in the other foot.
The whole thing smacks of a vendetta by Salmon and other Republicans who are miffed that Arpaio made commercials praising Janet Napolitano during the campaign. There's little doubt Arpaio helped persuaded enough Republicans to break ranks to hand Napolitano a victory.
Although her honeymoon ended when she strong-armed the renaming of Squaw Peak, Napolitano's popularity is still in the healthy range. And right now she not only is on the right side in a stare-down with Legislative leaders over the state budget, she quite likely will emerge the winner.
With Arpaio's poll numbers riding high as well, the GOP attempt to unseat him could well backfire — especially since it will be hard to take seriously a candidate for sheriff who, though popular and civic-minded, has no real law enforcement experience.
There are enough Valley residents who remember when a lawnmower salesman made a mockery of the Sheriff's Office. Do we really want to gamble on a country-music buff to run one of the nation's largest law enforcement agencies?
Not that somebody shouldn't be looking for good, qualified candidates to run against Arpaio, whose running of the department has come under increasing criticism in recent years. Most seriously, there have been too many needless deaths in Arpaio's jails, which also have cost county taxpayers millions of dollars in wrongful-death settlements.
Arpaio stubbornly refuses to change questionable policies — including one that allows patrol officers to chase suspects on Valley streets, endangering innocent motorists. His heavy-handed jail policies, such as denying all inmates visitation privileges after isolated fights, have increased tensions and fomented larger disturbances.
Finally, despite Arpaio's showboating and popularity, the Valley's crime rate remains alarmingly high. And indeed, it takes more than jail conditions that range between harsh to lethal to make law abiding citizens out of criminals.
Maricopa County deserves a law enforcement professional with the will and knowledge to run a top-notch police agency. Unfortunately, even with county Republicans in a hissy fit over Arpaio, we see none on the horizon.