Election season is heating up and Republican nominee Jerry Sheridan is taking a bold stance in the race for Maricopa County Sheriff.
On Monday, the former Deputy Chief of the agency spoke to a group of Arizona State University students who have stirred up controversy recently.
The College Republicans United group held a regularly scheduled meeting via Zoom Monday night and invited Sheridan to speak, explaining his stance on nationwide unrest, and what his plans are if elected Sheriff in November.
On Thursday, the same group announced their pledge to donate half of the funds they raise this year to the legal defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of shooting at least three people during demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two.
"Kenosha has devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it. They stood back and watched Kenosha burn. Kyle Rittenhouse is not a vigilante but a citizen who attempted to help in a city in chaos," reads the group's online statement. "We do not condone the death of these individuals but take note that these are not model citizens. Kyle Rittenhouse does not deserve to have his entire life destroyed because of the actions of violent anarchists during a lawless riot."
Sheridan, a 30-year veteran of MCSO, was second in command to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2015, the now-candidate for sheriff was accused of perjuring himself when he told a judge he knew nothing of a judge's order to stop immigration patrols.
While Monday's meeting was held virtually, Sheridan chose not to show his face. Rather, he spoke solely via audio to the group of students, and explained his plans if elected in November.
Hours before his presentation though, Sheridan released a statement denying accusations of any personal links to the group's fundraiser for Rittenhouse's legal defense fund.
"According to Penzone and the Arizona Democratic Party, had I been supporting this fundraising effort I would be disqualified from holding public office and would be unfit for the votes of Maricopa County residents because I would be affiliated with someone accused of a dangerous crime," said Sheridan. "Of course their claim was a complete lie..."
Sheridan’s most recent campaign signs, however, echo a similar tone displayed by President Trump as demonstrators gathered across several major U.S. cities over the last few months, including Seattle and Portland
Some found in North Scottsdale read, “Enforce our Laws! Stand up to the mobs."
“As a law enforcement officer, the politics is set aside and it goes back to supporting the constitutional rule of law. That’s what I’m all about," Sheridan told CRU members Monday. "I believe that every person in this nation has a right to peaceably assemble and to protest... but the second someone throws a rock or a bottle, that constitutional right is no longer valid because that is no longer a peaceful assembly. It becomes a criminal act."
Sheridan vowed to consider harsher methods of crowd control when demonstrations turn to unlawful assemblies. He said his plan included introducing "Skunk Water," an agent he called more effective than tear gas and pepper spray, to disperse crowds.
"I think what Sheridan is trying to do right now is really lean into what the current national conversation is turning out to be for the presidential contest Which is mob rule versus law and order," said Mike Noble Chief Research and Managing Partner at OH Predictive Insights.
Noble adds the move is risky.
“His race could be stopped before it even starts by taking this position," said Noble. "You look at this and it’s an easy argument for the Penzone camp to make to say, 'hey, you know this guy is saying he’s different, but he’s basically just Arpaio 2.0'.'“
On the other hand, the bold stance could make the difference in standing out against incumbent Sheriff Paul Penzone.
“He needs to kind of roll the dice and do something a little bit more unorthodox," added Noble. "That’s the thing when rolling the dice like this it can be - you could win big - but you could also lose big."