Positions of power up for grabs in Maricopa County

Penzone seeks second term with MCSO, room for new assessor after Petersen resigns

This combination photo shows Joe Arpaio speaking at the Arizona State Capitol in 2018 and Paul Penzone speaking at election night in Phoenix in 2016. The two appear primed for a rematch in 2020 for sheriff of Maricopa County. Mr. Penzone ousted Mr. Apaio from his 24-year reign back in 2016.
This combination photo shows Joe Arpaio speaking at the Arizona State Capitol in 2018 and Paul Penzone speaking at election night in Phoenix in 2016. The two appear primed for a rematch in 2020 for sheriff of Maricopa County. Mr. Penzone ousted Mr. Apaio from his 24-year reign back in 2016.
The Associated Press

2020 is a much-anticipated election year, with President Donald Trump seeking a second term at the White House.

Here in Arizona, multiple positions of power are up for grabs. Among them are Maricopa County Sheriff and Assessor.

In the former position, incumbent Paul Penzone seeks a second go as the head of MCSO. His biggest challenge may be former Sheriff Joe Arpaio or the 87-year-old’s former chief deputy, Gerard “Jerry” Sheridan. Mr. Penzone defeated Mr. Arpaio in the 2016 election, ousting a then-sheriff who had served in the role for the past 24 years.

While those three appear to be the front runners, other possible candidates appear on the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website. They are Lehland Burton of Mesa, Mike Crawford of Glendale and William Harrison Hall, who lists Sunflower and Glendale addresses in his statement of organization. The first two are running Republican while Mr. Hall is a Democrat.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Mr. Arpaio raised over $128,000 in the third quarter of 2019, compared to over $149,000 for Mr. Penzone and over $31,000 for Mr. Sheridan. Of the lesser known candidates, only Mr. Crawford posted a third-quarter report, raising just over $2,200.

According to the county recorder’s office, all six listed candidates for sheriff have an active status.

The Daily Independent met with Mr. Burton at a coffee shop in downtown Phoenix Jan. 6. The former Illinois man is seeking the sheriff’s spot, even with no experience in law enforcement — though he works as a security guard.

For Mr. Burton, he said he’s running an honest campaign, not looking to bash other candidates but to tell voters what he can do for them.

Among his priorities is digging deep into any instances of corruption or wrongdoing, something he told the Daily Independent he has heard from officers he has come across, whether during his time as a security guard, or from riding along with various agencies.

“We know there are good police officers out there, but it is the bad apples that cause the most harm,” he said. “I’m running to investigate each department here. Corruption is a snake. My job would be to see how many heads this snake has and sever each one for the people.”

Mr. Burton admitted his lack of experience in law enforcement puts himself at a disadvantage compared to Mr. Penzone — 21 years with the Phoenix Police Department and the last 3 years with MCSO — Mr. Arpaio — 24 years with MCSO and 25 with the Drug Enforcement Administration — and Mr. Sheridan — about 38 years with MCSO.

However, Mr. Burton said his inexperience would allow him to learn as he goes, and give residents a fresher face who still wants to see the county improve.

“I’m doing this for the people,” Mr. Burton said. “And also for the members of law enforcement that are still good, that are forced to keep their head down.”

Emails to the campaigns of Mr. Crawford and Mr. Hall have not been returned.

Replacing Petersen

As for county assessor, it appears Paul Petersen won’t get the chance to run again. Mr. Petersen resigned from his position Jan. 7 amid allegations across three states of adoption fraud and human trafficking. The county Board of Supervisors recently upheld a 120-day suspension of Mr. Petersen, who had been insistent on keeping his job that serves the fourth-most populous county in the United States.

Mr. Petersen’s statement of organization still appears to be active on the county recorder website, but it remains to be seen if he still has plans to keep his name in the hat. An email to his campaign was not returned by deadline.

Now at the top of the assessor radar is Democrat Aaron Connor, who has been adamant in supplanting Mr. Petersen, especially in light of the latter’s troubles.

Mr. Connor did not shy away from asserting his chances at wining in a Jan. 2 tweet on Twitter, saying he is “looking forward to becoming the next Maricopa County Assessor.”

According to his campaign website, Mr. Connor has over 15 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Among his stated goals are:

Improve technology to enhance the Maricopa County Property Owners experience;

Fairly and accurately assess property values while providing excellent customer service; and

Enhance accountability and transparency to the office.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Mr. Connor raised nearly $3,000 in the third quarter of 2019.

Standing in Mr. Connor’s way for the assessor job is Republican Rodney Glassman, who unsuccessfully ran for a spot on the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2018. However, the former Tucson councilman was encouraged last year by County Treasurer Royce Flora to run for assessor — with Mr. Petersen’s status in limbo at the time.

“They needed someone with a reputation for integrity, a background in real estate and the law, and a true commitment to serve the public,” Mr. Glassman stated via email.

Mr. Glassman said he has nearly two decades of experience in the real estate industry and is a trained attorney, with ties to the Boy Scouts and the Jewish community. He also served in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps Reserves.

Mr. Glassman defined the assessor’s role as making sure property owners receive a value for their property that is fair, transparent, and adjusted with economic conditions per Arizona statute.

“A big part of the job will be to proactively get out there and talk to groups across the community so they understand what the office does, how we can be helpful, and how to best contact us if and when the time ever comes that we can be of service,” he said. “As I spoke to people about the office it became apparent that the office needs an Assessor who will put the taxpayers first and champion their needs. We need to restore confidence, improve customer service, and insure [sic] that we are using the best technology to provide the most transparent valuations to save taxpayers money while supporting our growing Arizona economy.”

Bill Wiley has been serving as interim assessor since Mr. Petersen was suspended in October. Mr. Wiley is making $72 an hour, double the rate Mr. Petersen made. It is unknown if he will seek a full term.

While this story focused on the lesser known candidates, the Daily Independent will be reaching out to the “top guns” for sheriff, as well as candidates for other high-profile positions in Maricopa County. An update will be provided as other candidates respond.