The Fresno County Republican Party’s decision to host Joe Arpaio as a guest of honor at its annual banquet this month has drawn opposition from local figures, including the town’s Republican mayor — though organizers contend there remains a groundswell of support for the event.
The controversial former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County is slated to speak Friday, Sept. 29, at the organization’s “Second Amendment BBQ.”
A firestorm has surrounded the 85-year-old since Aug. 25, when he was granted a pardon by President Donald Trump for his criminal contempt conviction that had been handed down just a month prior.
Arpaio had yet to be sentenced in the case, which involved his continuing to violate the constitutional rights of Latinos after a court had officially ordered him to cease targeting citizens for questioning based on their skin color.
In addition to that conviction, a separate federal judge twice found that Arpaio’s jails fell short of constitutional standards for inmates’ health care, food and living quarters.
Yet both those cases don’t fully encompass the litany of examples of how his draconian sheriff’s department abused the rights of Latinos, women and children. He also used taxpayer funds to send a deputy to Hawaii in search of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
The flyer for the Fresno event identifies Arpaio as a sheriff, although he hasn’t held that title since 2016, when he lost his re-election bid to Democrat Paul Penzone.
The Fresno Republicans say their annual event is meant to “honor those in the military and law enforcement who protect Fresnans at home and abroad.”
“Sheriff Joe is a no-nonsense law and order leader, a veteran and a patriotic American,” the organization said. “Although he has been maligned by the left, he still stands strong, and FCRP is excited to welcome him to this event.”
As of last July, more than half of Fresno’s citizens identified as Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Yet Fresno County Republican party chairman Fred Vanderhoof told the Fresno Bee more tickets for the Arpaio-hosted evening have been selling at a faster rate than its previous two banquets.
Tickets start at $70, but attendees can pay up to $1,500 for a table of 10, personal photo with Arpaio and entry to a VIP receiption.
The local sheriff, Margaret Mims, told the Bee she could not attend due to scheduling conflicts and had enlisted Kings County Sheriff David Robinson to fill in for her. He, however, also dropped out, citing the controversy surrounding Arpaio, according to the Bee.
Fresno’s Republican mayor has also spoken out in opposition to the event, calling him a “villain” to some citizens.
A counter-protest is already set to be staged outside the dinner. More than 200 people have already indicated they plan to attend the counter-demonstration on its Facebook event page, while only three say they will show up for the Republicans’ event.