In his 32 years as Pima County Sheriff, 75-year-old Clarence Dupnik has never lost an election, but that was before some controversial comments made in regards to Tucson’s Jan. 8 mass shooting and Arizona Senate Bill 1070.
In a press meeting hours after the Jan. 8 shooting, Dupnik turned the issues political by declaring Arizona a “mecca for racism and bigotry,” and blaming the shooting on the “vitriol” political rhetoric in today’s society.
He also referenced SB1070 as “racist,” “disgusting,” and “unnecessary,” and made remarks to insinuate he would not enforce the bill.
According to the five Republican candidates looking to replace Dupnik, the comments were one of the influencing factors in their decision to file for candidacy this election season.
Republicans Chester Manning, Mark Napier, Vinson Holck, Terry Frederick, and Walt Setzer will look to oust one another in the Aug. 28 Primary Election to face Dupnik in the Nov. 6 General Election. As the only Green Party candidate, Dave Croteau will face off against the winner of the Primary Election and Dupnik in November.
Sheriff Dupnik will have the opportunity to respond to statements made by the Republican candidates in an interview with The Explorer on Aug. 7.
Frederick, a former Pima County Deputy Sheriff, is the only candidate to have worked for the Sheriff’s Department, a factor he said makes him the best candidate for the position.
“As others will tell you, the Sheriff’s Department is a completely different animal,” he said. “It is multifaceted. They control security within the courtroom, house inmates, and have the responsibility of responding to crime. I have an advantage because I have an experience within the department.”
Frederick said much of the trouble within the department comes from top-heavy leadership.
“There are three assistant chiefs making over $150,000 a year, and six to eight captains making about $80,000 a year. These are positions that could be vacated and not filled to allow the hiring of more deputies for the streets. My command staff, all the way to the top, would be responsible for patrolling the streets 8-10 hours a week. If people see a captain, a chief, or a lieutenant patrolling the streets, I think it will send a good message and have a positive effect on the department.”
Frederick said if elected, he would crack down on illegal immigration, an issue he claimed Dupnik has been too lackadaisical on.
“We have a border issue,” he said. “Dupnik said illegal aliens are only trespassing, and that’s just not true. If an illegal does not have the money to pay to cross the border, they are required to carry drugs instead, and they are smuggling in contraband that results in a larger scale of violence. Property crimes are up, and that is not a victimless crime as some believe.”
Frederick said he thinks Dupnik’s political involvement as a sheriff will likely hurt him come the General Election.
“I pulled my petitions in December 2010 before his remarks were made,” he said. “My choice to run wasn’t based solely on what he said, but what he said could hurt him. He spoke his mind, and as a top law enforcement official, he should keep his opinion out of things.”
As an owner of two small businesses, Frederick said he is also familiar with managing a budget.
Holck, a 20-year veteran of the Tucson Police Department, said he was motivated to step up for candidacy after watching the leadership in the Sheriff’s Department deteriorate.
Holck worked primarily as a patrolman, training coordinator, and member of the SWAT team, but also has extensive experience working as a member of the Air National Guard.
Holck said if elected, he would be motivated to dismiss the “us versus them” mentality that has acted as a barrier between officers and management in the Sheriff’s Department.
“Several of the line workers feel that way, and I want to change that culture,” he said. “Deputies and correctional officers are doing an excellent job, but feel they don’t have the support of management. That’s the job of the Sheriff’s- to support those men and women.”
Holck said his experience with training squadrons in the National Guard taught him a valuable lesson.
“When I was asked to train these squadrons for wartime exercises, it was those men and women who then went and did the work that got me the medals I received,” he said. “When I look at the Department, I see the people who are doing the tough jobs, who man the streets, who man those squads. Leaders approach things different ways, and I’m going to approach it where I am working on things that are important to my men and women.”
Holck added that Dupnik has been afforded no rights to voice his political opinions simply because he’s been in office so long.
“He stated he has the right to do that because he has been Sheriff for 30 years, but that’s not true,” he said. “You’re never afforded that right. You are supposed to provide facts and law enforcement.”
Manning, with 18 years of experience in law enforcement, primarily worked as a street officer with a specialty in firearms training and officer survival, but also worked as a law enforcement ranger with Pima County.
In regards to his candidacy, Manning said he is running as a constitutional conservative.
“When I look at enforcing the law, it will be from the aspect of constitutional muster, and whether or not my actions and the actions of the Sheriff’s Department should be something we are doing or not,” he said.
Manning, who is running on a platform of “protection, not politics,” criticized Dupnik for being overly involved in political affairs and not enough with law enforcement.
“We need a sheriff that is going to do law enforcement,” he said. “My strategy is to be directly the opposite of what Dupnik is. I will enforce the laws, and when I talk to people, they are going to get the facts, not a political or emotional take.”
Manning said if elected, he would like to send a realistic message to the public that true protection starts at the civilian level.
Napier, a 28-year veteran of law enforcement, said his extensive experience in law enforcement, education, and balancing budgets sets him apart from his opponents.
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Psychology and Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, Napier spent 21 years with the Tucson Police Department, where he finished his local career as Captain of the Southside Patrol Division before retiring from the Glendale Police Department as Assistant Director.
Napier said of his opponents, “They are good guys, I like them personally, but they stayed at the line level and never moved up in rank, and now they want to go straight to the top. There are too many things to learn in such a large organization as you move up the ranks. Modern law enforcement is very complex. There are 1,500 employees at the department and a $120 million budget. The person at the top of that organization must have the experience to manage that effectively. The best predictor of future performance is past performance, and my experience speaks well of me.”
Napier said the citizens of Pima County are ready for change in the Sheriff’s Department, particularly in regards to Dupnik’s inability to properly and effectively lead.
“There has been an absence of leadership from Dupnik,” he said. “He doesn’t lead on border safety or crime issues, and his controversial statements made in the past are outrageous. We need to restore leadership, we need fiscal responsibility, and we need to attack crime, and not respond to it.”
Napier was recently endorsed by the Southern Arizona Conservative Political Action Committee.
Setzer, a former border patrol agent, U.S. marshal, and NAVY veteran, said his career experience has prepared him to run the Sheriff’s Department, which requires knowledge in several areas.
“As a marshall, I worked as a jail contracting officer for Oregon and Idaho, I worked on contracting for housing federal prisoners, and I worked closely with various sheriff’s departments. Another duty the sheriff has is dealing with the courts, and I have experience dealing with bringing prisoners into court as well. I’m the only candidate who has such a wide background.”
Setzer said if elected, he would work to bring the County’s “astronomical” crime rate down.
“According the FBI crime reporting, per capita, Pima County has 4-10 times the crime rate of Maricopa County,” he said. “Property crime is a major reason for that. I will work to institute a strategy to fix that. Our deputies need to get out of their cars, meet people, and prevent crime.”
According to Setzer, much of the crime problem has come from a lack of leadership in the department.
“The sheriff is a no-show sheriff,” he said. “He has three chiefs that run that department. It’s a ship with no captain. It’s aimless. I’ve spoken to a number of deputies, and the morale at the bottom is gone, it’s rock bottom.”
Setzer said Dupnik violated his own policy about bringing opinion into a matter involving law enforcement.
“I think it will affect his chances,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people, including Democrats, and though he has 32 years invested in the department, I think it is time for him to retire.”