Poll: Democrat Penzone gains slightly on Sheriff Arpaio

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- A new poll shows the Maricopa County sheriff's race is tightening up heading into the final weeks of the election.

Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio still leads, but his Democratic rival, Paul Penzone, is within striking distance.

The numbers show Arpaio with 46.8 percent and Penzone at 42.1 percent. In addition, 7.7 percent of voters were undecided while 3.4 percent backed Mike Stauffer, the former Republican turned Independent candidate.

Penzone supporters believe Stauffer will split the anti-Arpaio vote enough to hand the sheriff an unprecedented sixth term in office.

It’s important to note that Penzone's campaign paid the Democratic-leaning Switchboard Communications to conduct the survey.

Still, the numbers show the race closing. Last month the same firm released a poll showing Arpaio holding a slightly larger lead over Penzone.

That poll put Arpaio at 44.5 percent and Penzone at 39 percent, meaning Penzone picked up 1 point over the past month.

However, the authors of today's poll make a point to say they questioned more Republicans. But Chad Willems, Arpaio's top political handler, isn't taking the poll seriously.

"This is just another poll manufactured by the Penzone campaign to create the illusion that he has some sort of momentum heading into the early voting period of the campaign," he said.

Early voting in Arizona begins Thursday and candidates in many races have been trying to grab attention in a last-minute push to win votes.

The automated telephone poll of 494 likely voters was conducted this week and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.