Dan's the man: Dan Saban announces for Sheriff, looks to kick Joe Arpaio's wrinkled keister.

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Go get 'em, tiger: Saban being interviewed shortly after announcing his run for Sheriff.

Monday means deadline for me, folks, because I'm under the gun for this week's Bird column, but I would be remiss if I didn't give a little report from my attendance this Saturday at the Dan Saban rally at the Wyndham downtown, where Saban announced his intent to force Arpaio into retirement this year in the general election.

Saban ran against Arpaio in the 2004 Republican primary, and ended up getting 44% of vote. This despite Arpaio's smear tactics against Saban as detailed in the cover stories of New Times journo Paul Rubin: "Boobs Tube," and "Below the Belt." If it had not been for the smear, Saban would likely have won his party's nomination. Especially since many in the party bucked Arpaio in 2004.

Saban's since switched to the Dem column, which should give him a good chance of defeating Arpaio, especially with Republicans and Independents able to cross over and vote for Saban's new Democratic self.

The crowd of 200-to-300 included PHX Police Department legal beagle and Dem Gerald Richards, who is expected to challenge Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas this year.

Speaking in support of Saban were community activist Donna Neil of Nail'Em; former state legislator and longtime lefty activist Alfredo Gutierrez; and most-prominently, former County Attorney Rick Romley, who received a standing ovation and really got the crowd rockin' like he was preachin' Sunday-go-to-meetin'.

Romley used change as his fiery refrain, telling folks, "You know it's time for a change when the Sheriff has become so angry over the years, [that] his anger is not just focused on criminals, it's focused on anyone who disagrees with him."

And, "You know it's time for a change when the number of lawsuits against the Sheriff is greater than the four largest jails in America combined."

Finally, Saban took the podium, looking vigorous and ready to tear into a hunk of red meat named Joe. After thanking everyone, he dived into a tasty attack against Arpaio, promising, "Today will mark the beginning of the end of Mr. Arpaio and his infamous reign." He told his jazzed supporters:

Numbered are the days when entire communities are denied law enforcement services because stattioning deputies in their areas is not convenient.

Numbered are the days when entire populations are forced to live in fear simply because of the color of their skin.

Numbered are the days when 40,000 known felons are allowed to roam freely because this sheriff does not think it's a priority.

Numbered are the days when members of the press and our citizens need to fear having a Sheriff who violates their Constitutional rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

And so on. My favorite line was Saban's brief reference to the Hendershott in Honduras affair:

As I stand here today, gone are the days when we send deputies to Honduras when the residents of Aguila, Gila Bend, Sun City, Sun Lakes, and Anthem are being neglected.

Saban declared that when he becomes Sheriff, he'll make reopening satellite jail facilities a priority, go after the 40,000 felons Arpaio's ignored and return dignity, honor and respect to the office. He also stated he will not renew the contract for MCSO offices at the downtown Wells Fargo Bank building, saving taxpayers from having to cover the steep rent there. And Saban promised that once he's sworn in,

"I will order an immediate and detailed audit of the existing finances and expenditure patterns within this office."

The small earthquake you just felt was Arpaio's Chief Deputy David Hendershott trembling.

Honestly, it was a great speech, as was Romley's. And I daresay that the MCSO is nervous. Poll numbers show Arpaio's approval ratings to be high, but nevertheless down some 20%. Sure a wounded dog is dangerous. But if Arpaio pulls some numbskull shit like his camp did against Saban in 2004, they risk an outrage as great or greater than when the MCSO arrested my bosses Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin in the middle of night this past October.

As the Police Chief in Buckeye, and before that as a Commander in the Mesa PD and in numerous other ways, Saban has distinguished himself as a bona fide lawman, not a nickel bag ne'er-do-well like his opponent. It's time for Arpaio to go, and Saban's got mojo enough to make him.

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