PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday said his support for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio shouldn't be read as a slap in the face of the state's Latino voters.
The Republican governor would not say whether he backs President Donald Trump's pardon of Arpaio in a case where a federal judge found him guilty of ignoring a court order.
The 2011 order required him to stop immigration patrols amid complaints that he was racially profiling Latinos. The judge ruled in 2013 that Arpaio's deputies used unconstitutional racial profiling in the patrols.
Ducey again called Arpaio a friend and pointed to a statement he issued after Friday's pardon crediting Arpaio with lowering crime. But he pushed back when he was asked whether backing Arpaio overlooked the state's Latino population, many of whom felt terrorized by the sheriff's immigration patrols.
"Everything we have done in our administration is standing up for all of the citizens of Arizona. Our administration has been about opportunity for all," he said. "Whether that's making a better economic climate where they can find a job or where their child can go the school of their choice."
That answer fell flat with Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a Democrat who with other supervisors has been forced to spend $66 million in taxpayer cash on items such as attorney fees, officer training and an alert system to spot problematic behavior by sheriff's deputies, all stemming from the racial profiling case.
Over the next year, it will cost an additional $26 million, largely for adding officers to the effort to comply with a court-ordered overhaul of the agency.
"Joe Arpaio is enemy No. 1 to the Latino community," Gallardo said. "We will never forget what Sheriff Joe Arpaio has done and we are never going to forget those that support him.
"This is black and white – are you on the side of Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio, or are you on the side of Latinos and taxpayers and the rule of law. That's the question that Gov. Ducey needs to ask himself," Gallardo added.
Ducey never explicitly said in his Friday statement or in Tuesday's comments whether he backed the pardon.
"The president of the United State has the power to pardon and he conducted the pardon," Ducey said Tuesday.
Ducey's stance runs counter to that of Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, fellow Republicans who criticized the pardon.
McCain in particular slammed the action, saying no one is above the law and that is doubly true for law enforcement officers.
"The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions."
Views about the pardon varied among the nine members of Arizona's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Three of the four Democratic members urged the president not to pardon Arpaio, while the fourth, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, said he should be held accountable.
Republican Reps. Paul Gosar, Trent Franks and Andy Biggs supported the pardon.
The offices of Republican Reps. David Schweikert and Martha McSally haven't publicly said whether they support or opposed the action.