When William James Fisher arrived in Phoenix in 1978, the Tucson-born attorney intended to return home someday.

That day still hasn't come.

Just as well, because had Fisher returned to his hometown, he wouldn't be in Phoenix leading one of Arizona's biggest political efforts - to recall Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Fisher, a 1971 Cholla High graduate, is chairman of Respect Arizona, the grass-roots group racing to collect 335,000 signatures by the end of May to force a recall election of Arpaio (www.recallarpaio.com).

It's a Herculean effort.

Arpaio, the 80-year-old sheriff who was re-elected to his sixth term last year, has won legions of fans for his media-grabbing stunts. He enjoys international notoriety for leading police raids into Latino and Yaqui neighborhoods under the guise of upholding federal immigration laws, and he has demeaned county jail inmates because, well, because he can.

To this critics, Arpaio is a bully and a racist who has mismanaged the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and cost county taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits. Additionally, he has been derelict in his duties for allowing several hundred reported sexual-assault cases to go uninvestigated.

Instead, he went after Latino immigrants, an easy political target in Arizona.

"People are tired of his antics," Fisher said in a telephone interview from his Phoenix office.

Don't rush to paint Fisher as a liberal crusader. He's a registered Republican who helped Arpaio win his first election in 1992.

"We had high hopes for him," Fisher said. Arpaio came off then as a conservative reformer, Fisher said.

The task of forcing a recall election and dumping Arpaio is a tough one, but it's not impossible - even in conservative Maricopa County.

Just ask Russell Pearce, former president of the state Senate, who was recalled in his Republican-dominated Mesa district in November 2011. Pearce was the political architect of Arizona's strict immigration laws, most of which have been put on hold or ruled unconstitutional.

A coalition of disenchanted Republicans, business leaders and Latino voters in Pearce's legislative district kicked him out.

Fisher said that same broad coalition has been assembled in Maricopa County to give Arpaio, an ally of Pearce, the same electoral boot.

"Some of the biggest support for the recall has come from Sun City," said Fisher, citing the large, overwhelmingly white, unincorporated retirement community.

"People everywhere have Arpaio fatigue," he said.

Arpaio, of course, is fighting back. His supporters, claiming the recall is illegal, filed a lawsuit against the recall committee and Fisher. Supporters also have demanded that the recall committee reveal its source of money.

Fisher laughed. The committee has spent $300,000 and needs much more. Arpaio has a reported $8 million, Fisher said.

The recall is not exclusive to Maricopa County. All of Arizona is tarnished by the sheriff's attitude and antics, Fisher said.

"Joe Arpaio is an embarrassment to all Arizonans," said Fisher. The sheriff is the "face of intolerance and SB 1070," he added.

Fisher said he's a fighter, a trait he acquired from his mother, Lidia Lopez Atondo, and his late father, William James Fisher, a veteran of World War II and Korea who served with Tucson's Marine Corps Easy Company and was a longtime educator in the Tucson Unified School District.

He asks that we consider the hundreds of victims of alleged sexual abuse who were failed by Arpaio.

That's reason enough for a recall.

Ernesto "Neto" Portillo Jr. is editor of La Estrella de Tucsón. He can be reached at (520) 573-4187 or at netopjr@azstarnet.com On Twitter: @netopjr