If bringing controversial ‘Sheriff Joe’ to a Latino-majority county carried by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will destroy Republican outreach to Latino voters, Fresno County Republican Party chair Fred Vanderhoof doesn’t appear worried.
“We had many Republicans that had won office in this area consistently because we had all the Hispanics votes, votes from every other demographic and consistently,” said Vanderhoof.
Other local conservatives expressed similar views.
Not far from where the 85-year-old Joe Arpaio spoke to a crowd of about 300 who showed up for the FCRP’s ‘1st and 2nd Amendment Celebration’ annual fundraiser event held in southeast Fresno last Friday (Sept. 29), the thinking was different.
An estimated 350 protestors – largely Latino, but including many whites, blacks and Asians – demonstrated a couple of blocks away with a different opinion of the former Maricopa County (Arizona) sheriff who was found guilty by a federal judge of ignoring a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
The group, many painting Arpaio as a racist, largely echoed the sentiments of Democratic National Party chairman Tom Pérez.
“It is an abomination that the Fresno County Republican Party has decided to go through with a fundraising event featuring Joe Arpaio, one of our nation’s most notorious agents of racism and bigotry,” Pérez said in a statement released the day of the fundraiser. “Arpaio spent his career tearing apart immigrant families and devastating Latino communities.
“Now Fresno Republicans are celebrating Arpaio’s hateful practices by hosting him for a fundraiser. President Trump and the Republican Party may not believe justice is blind, but the American people still do and they want to see Arpaio held accountable, not pardoned for his prejudice.”
Pérez is asking Fresno Republicans to “reject any and all amounts raised” from the Arpaio event.
Vanderhoof – who called Pérez’ racist charge “a badge of honor” – is confident the Republicans’ image with Latinos won’t suffer.
“Because we feel that these racist charges (against Arpaio) are false, again, as he says. He has promoted more Hispanics than any sheriff department in Arizona. And I think he just said it is the fourth-largest sheriff department, fourth-largest county in the United States,” Vanderhoof said. “Also he had a higher percentage of Hispanic staff, meaning deputies, and other people that work in the office than any other law enforcement agency in Arizona.
“He has two Hispanic grandkids, so how can people say he is racist? I know they said it is profiling, but he was following United States immigration law. And so this race card is something that the left does consistently,” Vandershoof said.
Guillermo Moreno, talk show host with Power Talk FM 96.7 radio, doubts Arpaio’s visit will damage the Republican Party.
“No just like it didn’t in Arizona. A lot of Latinos supported him in Arizona,” Moreno said.
“A lot of Latinos are Republican and a lot of people seem to think that they are not. So you have a lot of Latinos in that convention center right now, or the hall. So I don’t think it is going to have any affect at all,” Moreno said. “Those that are against are going to be against us, and those who are in the middle will see that this is about freedom of speech and second amendment.”
But not all Republicans are on the same page.
Republican political consultant Mike Madrid called the Arpaio fundraiser “an unmitigated disaster.”
“It’s beyond belief that a man convicted of racial profiling is held up as an iconic figure in the party of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln,” said Madrid, who has led Republican efforts to court Latino votes for two decades.
Madrid responded on Twitter to Arpaio’s comment on not knowing why he is being labeled a racist by writing “It comes from you being a racist.”
Later, he accused the Fresno County Republicans fundraiser. “Great work @FresnoGOP - Hope the few bucks you make tonight is worth losing elections for the next generation,” Madrid tweeted.
Vanderhoof said Republicans have done well with the Latino vote, noting that an Republican state senator he wouldn’t identify “had field workers that were excited about his race, and they were at his victory party.”
“Now why is that? Because here in the Central Valley we realized everybody needs jobs, we need water, and you got farmers on the westside of central California that are not able to growth crops because of lack of water,” said Vanderhoof.
“But, you got Hispanics in a lot of smalls towns on the westside that sometime are 30 to 40 percent jobless rates, so they are very, very, open to voting for republicans.”
The party, said Vanderhoof, is reaching out to Latino voters by recruiting Latinos to run for office. The Latina in charge of that effort, he said, is “doing an excellent job.”
“So, there are many conservative Hispanics in Central Valley, and I assume around the country,” said Vanderhoof.
He said Arpaio would not have been re-elected five times as sheriff “if it wasn’t for Hispanic votes.”
(Latinos account for 31 percent of Maricopa County’s 4.2 million residents, compared to 53 percent of Fresno County’s almost 1 million residents).
“We have Hispanics here that love him,” said Vanderhoof. “And, they are very frustrated and upset of the way he has been treated.”
Arpaio, during a press conference before the dinner, talked about being accused of racism, his federal conviction, Trump’s pardon, NFL protests, the proposed border wall with México and former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
In a brief radio interview, Arpaio said his sheriff’s department “had authority” to detain and arrest Latinos suspected of being undocumented.
“They (federal officials) trained us for 6 weeks. They said we could use race as a criteria,” said Arpaio.
Fresno County Democratic Party chair Michael Evans, who joined the protesters dressed in a mock prisoner’s outfit and chained, blasted the Arpaio visit.
“Fresno Republicans can whisk Joe Arpaio in on a fancy private jet, and they can hide him behind the iron bars of a fancy private club, but they can’t hide the hate, the racism or the disgraceful disregard for the rule of law that Joe Arpaio represents,” he said in a statement.
“They are showing us clearly what their values truly are with this event,” he said.
Outside the venue on an intersection nearby, demonstrators protested Arpaio’s hateful and bigoted message with signs that read:
‘You can run but you can’t hide.’
‘Shame on Fresno GOP.’
‘Will trade racist for refugees.’
‘Smash white supremacy.’
‘Immigrants are not the enemy.’
‘Stop pretending your racism is patriotism.’
‘Dirty cop Republican hero.’
According to The Fresno Bee, most of Fresno County’s elected Republican leaders were absent from the fundraiser. Those included Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, who was in Spain on a high-speed rail fact-finding trip; and, Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld, who also refused to attend. Previously Brand have said he would not have attended the event if he was in town due to Arpaio’s divisive presence.