PHOENIX (CN) — Voters turned Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio out of office Tuesday, denying the feisty Republican immigrant-hunter a seventh term.
Democrat Paul Penzone swamped Arpaio by more than 111,000 votes — a 10 percent margin in the county dominated by Phoenix, Arizona's capital and largest city.
The self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" faced waning popularity after a federal judge referred him to the U.S. attorney for criminal contempt charges in August, for violating court orders in a racial profiling class action.
The lawsuit, filed in 2007, accused Arpaio and his deputies of racially profiling Latinos during traffic stops and crime suppression sweeps. U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow agreed, and ordered Arpaio to stop immigration patrols. Immigration is a federal concern.
The case has cost county taxpayers more than $50 million in legal fees, adding to Arpaio's worsening popularity problem.
Those patrols, which Arpaio conceded he did not stop when ordered, are at the center of the criminal contempt charge officially against him in October.
"Tonight the people have spoken," Arpaio said in a statement. "We want to congratulate Paul Penzone on his victory and look forward to working with him on a seamless transition."
Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant, ran against Arpaio in 2012, but lost by six points.
"I am a blessed man," Penzone told a rally Tuesday night.
"I want to thank you all for what you've done, because we've made a statement across the nation," Penzone said. "No matter where we come from, or what we look like, or what our beliefs are, we are all entitled to respect."
Arpaio gained popularity across Arizona and the U.S. for his outspoken views against undocumented immigrants, and for jail tactics that some called abuse, such as requiring all Maricopa County Jail inmates to wear pink underwear.
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