'America's toughest sheriff' in 'toughest race of his career'

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave a speech at Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 (Source: Pool) Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave a speech at Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 (Source: Pool)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Predictions about the political demise of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are about as old as they are expected every four years.

But evidence that he now faces the political fight of his life continued to mount this week.

On Thursday, a local GOP consulting firm released a poll showing Arpaio losing to his likely Democratic opponent in November.

When voters were pressed to pick between Paul Penzone and Arpaio, the sheriff loses 52 percent 48 percent, according to Lincoln Strategy Group.

"It appears that the 'toughest sheriff' in America, Joe Arpaio, is in the toughest race of his career," said Nathan Sproul, the managing director of the Republican-leaning consulting firm.

It was the second poll in as many months showing Arpaio losing.

Sproul, an experienced GOP operative in the Valley, added that there's still time for Arpaio to "right the ship."

There’s no doubt the sheriff will have enough money to try and convince voters they should give him an unprecedented seventh term in office. At last count, he had over $4 million in his campaign coffers.

Still, despite a huge advantage over Penzone in terms of name recognition and money, Arpaio's campaign sent a fundraising email this week that sounded more like a distress call.

"I'm going to shoot straight with you: I'm in trouble," Arpaio wrote Wednesday to potential donors.

Was this a political ploy to convince supporters to scratch out another check? Only time will tell.

But it's interesting that the message appeared the same day a federal judge handed out his first round of punishments against Arpaio in his long-running racial profiling case.

RELATED: Arpaio pleads for leniency from federal judge he disobeyed

In May, Judge Murray Snow found Arpaio in civil contempt of court and that he lied on the stand.

RELATED: Defiant Arizona sheriff has been found in contempt of court

Snow is expected to dish out more punishments as the campaign evolves.

The biggest question still to be answered: Will Snow refer the case for criminal contempt charges, which carry hefty fines and potential jail time for Arpaio.

It remains to be seen Arpaio's his legal troubles will chip away at his base of supporters or galvanize them.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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