Maricopa Swears-In Ex-GOP Sheriff after Exit of Soros-Backed Penzone

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(Cameron Arcand, The Center Square) There’s a new sheriff in town in Maricopa County.

Russ Skinner, previously serving as chief deputy sheriff, was sworn in on Thursday morning after being appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Skinner is replacing Democrat Paul Penzone, a George Soros-backed lawman who stepped down last month, citing a desire to pursue other opportunities.

“I look forward to serving the community,” Skinner said at a news conference.

Skinner will only serve, however, until a new sheriff is elected in November, unless he decides to run and wins. He said he is unsure if he’ll pursue a bid at this point.

The law requires that the vacancy be filled by someone of the same party. Skinner switched his registration from Republican to Democrat.

“Russ is taking a pay cut, and he wants to do that willingly,” Supervisor Clint Hickman said. “He wants to step into the breach of public service, and I applaud him for it.”

The board voted for him 4-1, with Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the board, voting against him.

Although the globalist billionaire Soros is most notorious for his investment in soft-on-crime, highly partisan district attorneys, he sank at least $2 million in a political-action committee to support Penzone’s 2016 race against outspoken, six-term anti-immigration sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Penzone was reelected as part of the county’s dubious 2020 election, which a state-run audit later found to have been subject to multiple irregularities impacting tens of thousands of votes.

Gallardo suggested in a statement explaining his vote to oppose Skinner that the erstwhile Republican was likely to be a throwback to the Arpaio era—coming at a time when illegal immigration has devastated nearby border towns like Yuma and Lukeville.

“The people of Maricopa County made it crystal clear in 2016: they were done with Joe Arpaio—done with the way he’d politicized the office, wasted money, put the county at legal risk, and unfairly and cruelly targeted communities of color,” Gallardo said in the statement.

“They voted for Democrat Paul Penzone because they wanted their trust in MCSO restored,” he added. “I believe the former sheriff made important progress in his seven years in office, but there’s still a long way to go. Ultimately, voters will decide who leads this organization long-term.”

Skinner has been with the county for decades, including through the years when Arpaio was sheriff. His leadership still looms over the sheriff’s department, as it remains under intense federal oversight.

At the news conference, the new sheriff clarified that he has no plans to bring back pink underwear and tent city, two hallmarks of the Arpaio years that were quickly shot down when Penzone took office.

In addition, he addressed concerns about maintaining order during election season, as the politically competitive county continues to be a hub of civil action related to voting processes.

“We have to get past the anger, the separation, the polarization,” Skinner said.

Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report. 

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