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Will Arizona sheriff Arpaio’s popularity continue amid lawsuit?

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Antonio Bustamante, a Phoenix civil rights attorney and critic of the sheriff’s immigration enforcement, said that "there’s a big swath of voters that this will not sway at all," calling much of the voting public in Arpaio’s jurisdiction racist and ignorant.

"People come (to Arizona) from other places and want to make it like Kansas or Nebraska," said Bustamante, who said he’s a fourth-generation Arizonan whose ancestors came from Mexico. "A lot of those folks look upon us as the outsiders, and we’ve been here for generations. And we settled the state and were the pioneers of this state."

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The most recent reliable poll asking voters how they feel about Arpaio — conducted by the nonpartisan Behavior Research Center — showed that 41 percent of the 700 people asked thought he was doing an excellent or good job. Thirty-three percent thought he was doing a poor job and 19 percent said he was doing a fair job, according to the poll, conducted in April last year.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Arpaio has had no problem with fundraising, garnering more than $1.1 million in the past year. The majority of those contributions came from people living outside the state, with 2,700 donations alone coming from California, compared to 2,500 from Arizona.

Donors in Texas, Florida and Washington also made a substantial number of donations to the campaign.

Records show that Arpaio’s re-election committee had $3.4 million on hand as of Dec. 31, the most recent figure available. More updated figures will not be released until June or July.

Justice officials would like Arpaio’s office to seek training in constitutional policing and dealing with jail inmates with limited English skills, collect data on traffic stops and immigration enforcement, and establish a comprehensive disciplinary system that permits the public to make complaints against officers without fear of retaliation.

Separate from the Justice Department’s allegations, a lawsuit that alleges that Arpaio’s deputies racially profiled Latinos in immigration patrols is scheduled for a July 19 trial in federal court.

A federal grand jury also has been investigating Arpaio’s office on criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009 and is specifically examining the investigative work of the sheriff’s anti-public corruption squad.

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The sheriff’s office also has come under fire for more than 400 sex-crimes investigations — including dozens of alleged child molestations — that hadn’t been investigated adequately or weren’t examined at all over a three-year period ending in 2007.

Arpaio has apologized for the botched cases, reopened 432 sex-crimes investigations and made 19 arrests.


Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/(hash)!/AmandaLeeAP

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