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Longtime Republicans make shortlist for Maricopa County sheriff appointment

Despite state law requiring supervisors to elect Democrats, three candidates announced by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as finalists for the interim sheriff position include longtime Republicans. This includes two people who have served as members.

Supervisors received applications from eight people seeking to replace former Sheriff Paul Penzone, who resigned a year early on Jan. 12.

The appointed candidate will serve until the person elected sheriff is sworn in in November, county spokeswoman Fields Moseley said.

State law says sheriffs must live. within the county they serve and Prohibits sheriffs from practicing law.

Because Mr. Penzone was a Democrat, regulators must appoint a Democrat to replace him.

On Monday, county spokeswoman Bianca Briga announced that the supervisor would interview three candidates: Jeffrey Kirkham, Patrick Valenzuela Sr. and Russ Skinner.

Mr. Kirkham and Mr. Skinner have been registered Republicans for decades, but recently changed party affiliation.

Mr. Skinner registered as a Republican in May 1987, but switched to the Democratic Party on October 3, 2023, the day after Mr. Penzone announced his resignation.

Mr. Kirkham registered as a Republican in March 1988, but changed his preference to Democrat this year.

Mr. Valenzuela is a registered Democrat and has not recently changed his party affiliation.

Mr. Skinner currently serves as Chief Deputy Sheriff for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. He has lived in Maricopa County for more than 50 years and has been with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for more than 33 years, he said. He has the powers of sheriff until his appointment. He has been the chief of staff since 2018.

Mr. Kirkham has 38 years of law enforcement experience. He served as commander of the Apache Junction Police Department from 2014 until 2023. From 2012 until 2014, he served as a compliance expert on police misconduct at the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission.

Valenzuela has 27 years of law enforcement experience. He has been a lieutenant with the Glendale Police Department since his 2020 year. Valenzuela has experience as a police patrol shift commander, SWAT team member, field training officer, and school resource officer.

Supervisors will interview the three candidates privately on Tuesday morning.

“The board is considering these three applicants because of their extensive law enforcement backgrounds and commitment to public safety,” Chairman Jack Sellers said in a statement. “During the interview process, the board would like to learn more about your vision for serving the residents of Maricopa County.”

Briga said the supervisory authority would decide on the appointment as soon as possible, but left open the possibility of restarting the application process if necessary.

While supervisors decide who to choose as interim sheriff, candidates continue to submit letters of intent to run for the position this year.

Do you have news information about the sheriff appointment process, sheriff elections or the Maricopa County Jail? Contact the reporter at jjenkins@arizonarepublic.com or 812-243-5582.Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter @JimmyJenkins.

This article originally appeared in the Arizona Republic. A longtime Republican lawmaker has been named as a candidate to replace Democrat Paul Penzone.

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