The latest in the war of words sparked by the Tucson tragedy: Local tea party groups are actively working to recall Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for “politicizing a tragedy” after he pointed a finger at Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives after the January 8 shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and 18 others.
On Friday, the nation's attention was focused on Giffords's move from the Tucson hospital where she was initially treated to a Houston rehabilitation facility. In Arizona, meanwhile, tea party activists are planning a “Dump Dupnik 2012” rallyfor January 28 outside the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Dan Baltes, executive director of the Utah organization Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, is taking it a step further: He is organizing a recall effort.
Dupnik made headlines when, during a press conference after the rampage that left six people dead and 13 wounded, he suggested that "vitriolic" political rhetoric and "partial ... sometimes wrong information" promulgated by Limbaugh and other conservatives might have triggered the incident. He has not backed down since. “The vitriol affects the [unstable] personality that we are talking about,” Dupnik said, a reference to suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner, who is not believed to have any political affiliation.
It was not the first time that the sheriff has leveled strong criticisms at local conservative activists. At an immigration forum last year, he attacked the tea party, calling it “a movement designed to stop Obama from accomplishing anything.”
Recalling Dupnik won't be easy. Proponents are required to gather 90,809 valid signatures within 120 days, Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson told National Journal. If that threshold is reached, a special election would be held no earlier than March 2012.
History suggests that the sheriff's opponents face a formidable challenge. First elected in 1980, Dupnik is the longest-serving sheriff in Pima County history. He defeated his Republican opponent in 2008 with 64.6 percent of the vote.