Is Arizona Ready For...Senator Joe Arpaio?

Posted: Feb 15, 2011 10:28 AM
Rep. Jeff Flake has officially announced a run for Senator Kyl's soon-to-be-open seat, but should he be looking over his shoulder at Arizona's most controversial law enforcement officer?  Um, perhaps:

It's too soon to crown anyone Arizona's next Senator -- but on the same day Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced his intent to run, a new poll of Grand Canyon state Republicans shows Sheriff Joe Arpaio leading the field to replace the retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R).

Arpaio has not announced his intention to run for the open Senate seat next year, though there's long been speculation that Arpaio -- an absolute rockstar among the anti-immigration set in the GOP -- is interested in higher office.

The numbers: Arpaio leads with 21% support, Flake comes in second with 17%. Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R), who briefly gave Sen. John McCain a scare during the 2010* Senate primary, before being crushed by McCain on primary day, came in third with 16.6%.

We already knew Flake's endeavor wouldn't be a cake walk, given the number of base-inflaming votes he's cast through the years.  Still, the conventional wisdom remains that regardless of who triumphs in what could be a wild GOP primary, Kyl's seat is likely to remain in GOP hands.  After all, Republican statewide candidates performed very strongly in Arizona last cycle, right?  Right -- but might a polarizing figure like Arpaio be a bridge too far for independent voters in a high-turnout presidential election year?  It's too early to tell.  Frankly, any early Beltway consensus might get thrown out the window if a certain virtually untouchable Democrat decides to run:

As Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues to recuperate from last month's assassination attempt, the possibility of her making a Senate bid in 2012 is being seriously discussed in Democratic circles.

Before she was shot in the head last month in Tucson, the conventional wisdom was that Giffords was a prime contender for Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) Senate seat.

Now that Kyl is retiring, there is a genuine pickup opportunity for Democrats in the state, and Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny says Giffords remains at the top of the list.

*The original article misidentified the year of the McCain/Hayworth primary battle as 2012, not 2010.