PHOENIX — Joe Arpaio, the bellicose former Arizona sheriff whose harsh immigration tactics earned him international notoriety, narrowly lost his Republican primary as he tried to regain his old office in Maricopa County.
Voters instead backed Jerry Sheridan, Mr. Arpaio’s former chief deputy, who promised to revive many of Mr. Arpaio’s policies but without the showmanship that defined the office under Mr. Arpaio’s 24-year reign. Mr. Sheridan will face Sheriff Paul Penzone, the Democrat who trounced Mr. Arpaio four years ago, in the November general election.
In the latest count from Tuesday’s primary, announced on Friday, Mr. Sheridan had secured about 37 percent of the vote in a three-way race, compared to Mr. Arpaio’s 36 percent — a difference of 6,280 votes out of more than 420,000 cast, with only 2,385 ballots remaining to be counted.
Most political observers say Mr. Penzone is the favorite in the general election.
For Mr. Arpaio, 88, the loss on Tuesday was his third electoral defeat in four years. After losing his 2016 re-election bid, he suffered a resounding drubbing in a three-way Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018.
Mr. Arpaio said in an interview on Friday that this year’s race was his last run for public office, adding that his age and record as sheriff were working against him.
“They were tired of me and tired of my office,” he said.
Mr. Arpaio is a close ally of President Trump’s, and his fall from grace mirrors the struggle that the president faces among suburban Republican voters in Arizona, a traditionally conservative state that is seen as up for grabs in this year’s presidential election.
Mr. Arpaio’s campaign exploited racial tensions and pushed a tough-on-crime message amid a nationwide movement to stop police abuses against people of color. His rebuke from Republican voters could be an ominous sign for the president, who is trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the polls in Arizona.
Mr. Arpaio outspent Mr. Sheridan by a margin of more than 15 to one, and had nearly 100 percent name recognition. But moderate Republicans grew embarrassed by the reputation he had helped give the state, and grass-roots party activists worried that putting him on the ballot in November would harm their chances of winning back the sheriff’s office and damage the outlook of Republicans up and down the ballot.
Mr. Sheridan is a 38-year veteran of the sheriff’s department and was a key decision maker during Mr. Arpaio’s defiance of a court order to end immigration raids that racially profiled Latinos. Mr. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court in 2017 for continuing his raids, a conviction that earned him Mr. Trump’s first pardon.
Mr. Sheridan was found guilty of civil contempt of court and a judge referred him for criminal contempt charges, though prosecutors later said the statute of limitations prevented them from bringing charges. A related complaint with the state board that certifies police officers languished until Mr. Sheridan’s certification expired this year.
Mr. Arpaio said Friday that he had no regrets about his defeat.
“I guess I lost by 1 percent, but I’m still the longest-serving sheriff in the history of Maricopa County,” he said. “Nobody is going to beat that one.”