In the wake of the tragic shootings in Tucson, Ariz., Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik became an unlikely spokesperson for the left as he pointed the finger of blame at the right and conservatives' "vitriolic rhetoric" for the acts of madman.
Sheriff Dupnik has never lost an election, but after trying to tie public figures such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh to the shootings and calling Arizona a "mecca for prejudice and bigotry," some are hoping to disrupt the Democrat's winning streak.
A group opposed to illegal immigration has begun an effort to recall the sheriff in a special election, the Washington Times reports. Additionally, a Pima County tea party group is planning a "Dump Dupnik" campaign rally to be held outside the sheriff's office next week.
"I haven't been a fan of Dupnik's for a long time, but this really was the straw that broke the camel's back," said Tom Rompel, co-owner of Black Weapons Armory in Tucson. "He's law enforcement. We expect 'the facts, ma'am,' not his opinion. He leans far left, always has, and frankly, people have had enough."
Not that the sheriff should worry about turning in his badge just yet. Sheriff Dupnik has won election eight times, and he's a Democrat in a Democrat-majority county. While some constituents were appalled by his comments, others have applauded his forthright indictment of the state's political climate.
Witness the "Clarence Dupnik is my Hero" page on Facebook, which so far has 9,582 who "like this."
"He is not afraid to call the bullies out on their part in this mess. Civility without hate speech is our mission!" says the page in its description paragraph.
Dupnik's national notoriety began after he publicly disavowed his own state's SB 1070 illegal immigration crackdown law and vowed that his Pima County police force would not enforce the law. But it was Dupnik's comments that came about an hour after after the Jan. 8 shooting left six dead and 13 wounded. Despite having no evidence to substantiate his claims, Dupnik inserted his own opinion into his role assessing the crime -- an act condemned by another well-known Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
The Pima County Tea Party Patriots group plans to "indict" the sheriff at their rally next week for "politicizing the shootings, blaming free speech for the crime without evidence, failing to protect Giffords, failing to recuse himself from the investigation, and embarrassing the community in front of the nation," according to the Arizona Daily Star.
On Wednesday, Sheriff Dupnik's office issued a statement saying he would have no further comment on the shooting.
For recall efforts to proceed to a ballot referendum, Dupnik's detractors will need to gather 90,809 valid signatures in the next 120 days -- no small feat in a county with 485,629 registered voters. And in the Democratic-majority county, recall supporters would need to find a candidate who could successfully defeat Dupnik in a special election.
"He's never been in a close race. He wins by huge margins," said Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers. "He is widely respected and beloved public official. You want to run for office in this town, you want a picture of Clarence Dupnik standing next to you."
"The sheriff's effect on our viewers has been highly polarizing, with the commenters tending to either love him or hate him," KGUN news director Forrest Carr said Friday.
But despite the public discontent over Sheriff Dupnik's recent job performance, one thing remains unchanged, Carr notes: "[T]he bulk of the messages continues to consist of thoughts and well wishes for Gabrielle Giffords and for the other victims and their families."