Joe Arpaio, the avowed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” inserted his barbed rhetoric into a Los Angeles-area congressional race Thursday night, predicting an upset victory for Republican Omar Navarro while blasting Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters and other California politicians.
“I don’t know her, but I don’t like her,” the former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff told about 50 Navarro supporters at a campaign fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. “If you can’t beat her, Omar, there’s something wrong.”
Arpaio broadened his attacks to include L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had campaigned against him in Phoenix while wearing an “Arrest Arpaio” T-shirt; sanctuary-city and sanctuary-state policies; and critics of President Donald Trump.
“What’s wrong with California? Is it the water? Something’s wrong with California,” said Arpaio, who added that he came here as part of his effort “to see that President Trump wins a second term and we elect Omar Navarro to Congress.”
The remarks might not have been popular in many parts of the mostly liberal 43rd Congressional District, where Navarro, a 28-year-old Torrance resident, is making his second bid to unseat 14-term Rep. Waters, D-Los Angeles.
But they drew cheers from the crowd at a cocktail event where attendees paid up to $250 a head to hear Arpaio mix folksy wit with cutting criticisms in an off-the-cuff, half-hour speech.
“I predicted (in 2015 that Trump) would be the next president, so I guess I’m good at predicting. I’m predicting Omar will win this election,” Arpaio said to the loudest ovation of the night.
In an interview earlier Thursday, Navarro acknowledged Arpaio is a polarizing figure on immigration and criminal-justice issues, but said the 85-year-old sheriff has been described inaccurately by news media and treated unfairly by the legal system.
“He reminded me of my grandfather — a go-getter, a real joker,” said Navarro, who said he met Arpaio at a Trump fundraiser in Phoenix. “What they label him like in the news isn’t reality. They make him out to be without a heart. He’s really a great person.”
Navarro, an online marketer who was born in Inglewood to a Cuban father and Mexican mother, indicated Arpaio’s views on immigration reflect his own, and that he was pleased that Trump issued a pardon in August to “Sheriff Joe” after he was convicted of defying a judge’s order that his department stop arresting people solely on suspicion they were in the country illegally.
The candidate said he’s trying to “educate Latino voters” so that they’ll support legal immigration but oppose illegal immigration.
“It’s not racism. It’s not discrimination. It’s obeying the laws of our country,” Navarro said.
Arpaio’s appearance in Southern California came on the day a U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix ruled that the pardon did not void his contempt-of-court conviction. In a brief interview before his speech, Arpaio said he will appeal the ruling.
Navarro said Arpaio also will appear with him in a hospitality suite the candidate will host at the California Republican Convention, which is being held Friday to Sunday in Anaheim. It will be “a little surprise” for convention-goers, Navarro told a reporter.
Waters defeated Navarro in November 2016 by a margin of 76.1 percent to 23.9 percent. But Navarro hopes to do better in 2018 thanks to increased fundraising and national attention for his campaign.
Waters’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment Thursday on her opponent’s alliance with Arpaio.
Emmanuel Han, a Harbor City attorney who attended the Trump golf course event, said he heard of Navarro only three days ago but supports him because he’s running against Waters, and likes Arpaio’s incarceration methods better than California’s, “where we’re pretty much just letting them go.”
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