PHOENIX, ARIZONA — A cheer rose from the crowd gathered in Grant Park on the south side of Phoenix Tuesday night when the Associated Press announced that Joe Arpaio’s 23-year tenure as Maricopa County Sheriff had come to an end.
There were hugs, high-fives, and chants of “Si se puede, si se pudo” — “Yes we can, yes we did.”
“It’s going to be a new day for Arizona,” 30-year-old realtor Dulce Matuz told ThinkProgress. “We’re not just going to be known as the state that passed anti-immigrant laws. We’re going to be the state that voted against hate and xenophobia. We can finally move on and be a state that celebrates diversity.”
Matuz voted for the first time in her life on Tuesday, and said she was thrilled to cast her ballot against a man who has loomed large over Phoenix’s Latino community for nearly a quarter century.
“This is personal,” she said. “I was undocumented for 12 years. My mom is still undocumented. My siblings are still undocumented. When Joe Arpaio is terrorizing our community, my family is in danger of deportation every day. We’ve had enough.”
Arpaio ran for another term in office despite the federal charges looming over him. In December, he will stand trial for criminal contempt because he allegedly violated a judge’s order to stop illegally racially profiling Latinos. He also faces possible charges for obstruction of justice and perjury. If convicted, he could face up to six months in jail.
Many of the youngest and most active members of the “Bazta Arpaio” campaign that worked to defeat the sheriff, like high school sophomore Azucena Castro, have never known a life without him in power.
On Tuesday, Castro led a walkout of more than 100 students at North High School. The teenagers marched through the streets of downtown Phoenix before splitting up into last minute get-out-the-vote teams.
“A lot of us cannot vote, either because we’re not of age or we’re not citizens, but we wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is our future. We want our voices heard,’” she told ThinkProgress.
Arpaio, who Matuz called “our mini Donald Trump,” was unseated Tuesday by Democrat Paul Penzone. This past weekend, Penzone stopped by the local offices of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to thank the dozens of high school activists who mobilized for months to register and turn out voters of color against his opponent.
“I’ll never be able to repay you, other than by doing the job the right way so that your families are safe and you are respected,” Penzone told them. “This will be about how you hold me accountable, how you work with me, and how we fight together to ensure that everyone — no matter your ethnicity, your race, where you come from or what you believe in — when someone in law enforcement interacts with you, they’re respectful, professional, and just.”
Matuz assured ThinkProgress that she and other members of the Bazta Arpaio movement will have no qualms about protesting against Penzone should he fall short in these promises like other Democrats before him.
“For us, it’s not about Democrats or Republicans,” she said. “Republicans have done a really good job alienating Latinos, but the Democratic Party doesn’t have a strong backbone either and doesn’t protect our communities.”
“We’ve had millions of deportations under a Democrat,” she added, referring to President Obama. “But regardless of the results, we’ve already won, because we are no longer in fear. We have mobilized. We’ve empowered ourselves. For me, that’s already victory.”