Clarence Dupnik: The Anti-Joe Arpaio Sheriff in Arizona
Until Saturday’s rampage against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left her battling for her life and ended the lives of six others, Clarence Dupnik was not the most famous sheriff in Arizona.
But after a pull-no-punches news conference in which he linked the shooting in Tucson to a poisonous underlying political atmosphere, the Pima County sheriff may soon become known nationally as the anti-Joe Arpaio.
“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” said Dupnik, referring to the troubled suspect, 22-year-old Jared Loughner.
Dupnik said Arizona, embroiled over the last year by bitter divisions over illegal immigration and health care reform, has “become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
Many officials have been threatened, including Giffords, the federal judge killed by her side and Dupnik himself. The sheriff called that a “sad thing,” and said, “Pretty soon, we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.”
Dupnik, who turns 75 Tuesday, became an instant hero among liberals, who drew a sharp contrast to that other septuagenarian sheriff over in neighboring Maricopa County.
Arpaio, 78, has branded himself “America’s toughest sheriff.” His harsh and unapologetic tactics to catch illegal immigrants have made him a magnet for controversy who has been accused of trampling civil rights and inciting hate. But they also have made him a tea party star and a long-shot candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.