Local news outlets are reporting that last week, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio disseminated a stinging letter urging Republican primary voters to support right-wing shock jock and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in his bid for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat. Arpaio wrote:
Senator McCain has served this country admirably but it’s time to replace his moderate or even liberal positions on taxes, the border, social causes and big bank bailouts with a consistent conservative like J.D...I just wish Senator McCain had run as hard against Barack Obama as he is against a conservative like J.D. That could have prevented the harmful, liberal agenda we are all now suffering through…[W]e must stop Senator McCain’s policies to open up our borders.
Ironically, when it comes to immigration, neither Hayworth nor Arpaio have been the “consistent conservatives” they like to portray themselves as. During the 2006 and 2007 immigration debates, Hayworth dedicated a lot of time to lambasting immigration reform, particularly proposals for a temporary worker program. However, the website of NumbersUSA — the sort of immigration restrictionist group Hayworth is pandering to — shows that he repeatedly voted in favor of expanding temporary worker programs throughout the 1990s. Republican columnist and commentator Linda Chavez points out that Hayworth’s anti-immigrant flip flop in the proceeding decade likely cost him his House seat. Chavez writes that Hayworth switched positions as soon as he “sensed bashing immigrants was a surer ticket to re-election.” However, voters “wanted no part” in Hayworth’s hardline policies and voted him out of office in 2006.
Arpaio also is no steadfast conservative either. In 2005, Arpaio held that “being illegal is not a serious crime. You can’t go to jail for being an illegal alien.” At the time, Arpaio told the Arizona Republic’s Michael Kiefer, “I want the authority to lock up smugglers, but I am not going to lock up illegals hanging around street corners.” These days, Arpaio brags about locking up 32,000 “diseased” immigrants for smuggling themselves across the border, even though it created a $1.3 million deficit in just three months. However, polls show that Arpaio’s popularity may be waning partly due to the controversies surrounding his harsh immigration enforcement tactics.
For the past several years, McCain has been a conservative voice of reason in the immigration debate. Many speculate that he actually lost the critical support of the Latino community when he backed away from his immigration position during the 2008 presidential election. With Latinos comprising 11.7% of Arizona voters, McCain would be wise to resist the temptation of getting pushed farther to the right by a right-wing has-been and a mud-slinging Sheriff mired in controversy.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.