Joe Arpaio Is Running For Senate
Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona who was convicted on contempt of court charges before being pardoned by President Trump, has announced that he’s running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jeff Flake:
Republican Joe Arpaio, a close ally of President Trump and former sheriff known for his provocative approach to combatting illegal immigration, is running for Senate in Arizona.
The 85-year-old Arpaio could shake up the late August Republican primary in a critical open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Trump pardoned Arpaio last summer, sparing the former sheriff jail time after he was convicted of ignoring a federal court order in a racial-profiling case.
The polarizing yet iconic former Maricopa County sheriff, beloved by many conservatives for his hawkish immigration policies, presents an alternative to the unimpressive Kelli Ward and a potential obstacle to Rep. Martha McSally. She is expected to launch within days and is widely viewed as the Republicans’ strongest general election candidate.
In a telephone interview with the Washington Examiner, Arpaio shrugged off concerns about his age, dismissed Republican insiders’ anxiety that his poor reputation with nonwhite voters would put the seat in play for the Democrats in the midterm, and discussed plans to work with Trump on behalf of Arizona.
“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” Arpaio said. “I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted. But I would not being doing this if I thought that I could not win. I’m not here to get my name in the paper, I get that everyday, anyway.”
Arpaio served as the elected sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix and surrounding suburbs, for 24 years until a Democrat ousted him in 2016.
Through strict opposition to illegal immigration and unorthodox policing methods, Arpaio cultivated a national image as a tough, law-and-order cop. That made him a favorite of conservative media and popular on the GOP endorsement circuit as Republicans throughout the country sought to bolster their border security bona fides in primaries.
Arpaio’s sharp rhetoric and law enforcement practices also drew intense criticism. Democrats, some Republicans, and advocates for immigrants — both legal and illegal — accused him of unconstitutional racial profiling and even bigotry. Arpaio said he expects more of the same in his Senate campaign, but vowed not to alter his approach.
“My mother and father came here from Italy, legally of course. I have a soft spot for the Mexican community having lived there,” he said. “I’m not going to get into my personal life, but I will say we have four grandkids and some have a different ethnic and racial background. I don’t say that. I don’t use my grandkids. So, I have a soft spot, but still, I’m going to do my job. You have to do it.”
“Being a U.S. senator is a little different than being the sheriff, because you can do a lot of things in the U.S. Senate, and I have many plans, believe me. It’s tough. It’s a tough decision. But, if you’re going to come across that border, you should be arrested and get the consequences of it,” Arpaio added.
To be sure, Arpaio’s reputation and close affiliation with Trump is virtually guaranteed to rev up a conservative base that had pushed the pragmatic Flake into retirement because of his feud with the president. That could work in his favor in a midterm, elections in which Republican turnout has tended to dominate. But in an election shaping up as challenging for the GOP, Arpaio’s candidacy could make nervous a party defending a 51-49 Senate majority.
Even if Arpaio loses the primary to McSally, he would have had seven months to push her to the right and define GOP messaging on a host of issues — and not just in Arizona. Trump is sure to promote Arpaio’s campaign, and Republican primary candidates all over the country might follow his lead.
Arpaio said he relishes the fight, whether from the Left or from supporters of McSally on the Right.
“I am outspoken. I’m looking forward to it. Let them come. They’ll have their political firing squads and bring tons of money here, because they don’t want to lose,” he said. “I just want to do everything I can to support our president.”
Arpaio’s main offer to Arizonans: He would support Trump unflinchingly, should he win the nomination and defeat the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. That’s not insignificant. Both Flake and McCain have a contentious relationship with the president, and he with them.
To that end, Arpaio suggested he could support some form of legalization of participants in the since discontinued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that protected illegal immigrants brought in as children from deportation. Of course, in typical fashion, Arpaio offered his own view of what should be done.
“I have a far-out plan, which may look stupid,” he said. “When they come to your attention that they’re here illegally, these young people, deport them back to Mexico — or whatever — and then try to put them on a fast track to come back into the United States legally with special permits. What’s wrong with that? They’d say they don’t know where their home country is, so let them go there and spend six months, because it might take that long to do paperwork to get them here legally and let them see their home country and see what it’s really like. They ought to be proud where they came from. I’m proud being an Italian American. I’m proud of Italy. I’m proud my father, mother came over, proud of it. So, you could kill two birds with one stone.”
Arpaio also announced his candidacy on Twitter:
I am running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again. https://t.co/ANppBdDOtp
— Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) January 9, 2018
Arpaio, of course, is the former long-serving Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona who gained national attention and celebrity status on the right for his hardline position on policing and immigration. His tenure did not come without controversy, though, especially when it came to the manner in which it treated prisoners in general and Latinos in particular. He also became closely associated with Donald Trump long before Trump entered the 2016 Presidential race nearly three years ago due to his full-throated embrace of the birther conspiracy theories about former President Obama which Trump championed during his brief flirtation with the idea of running for President in 2012. In November of 2016, he was defeated in his bid for a sixth term in office, but that didn’t end the legal woes connected to his tenure in office. Last summer, Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court related to his refusal to obey orders of a Federal District Court Judge regarding the operation of his department. Shortly thereafter, President Trump pardoned Arpaio, thus sparing him from serving any jail time in connection with his sentencing.
Arpaio joins Kelli Ward, who tried to take on John McCain in his last bid for re-election in 2017, in the race for Senator Flake’s seat as well as a small handful of other lesser-known candidates. It is expected, though, that Congresswoman Martha McSally, who represents Arizona’s Second Congressional District, which includes Tucson and a large segment of the southwestern part of the state. will enter the race as early as later this week and it is expected that she will be the overwhelming choice of the party apparatus as well as Republicans in Washington. Arpaio and Ward, meanwhile, will likely be competing for the same group of voters, meaning that they could potentially divide the far-right segment of the Republican electorate that would provide an opening for McSally to win the plurality needed to win the primary. On the Democratic side, the leading candidate is Congresswoman Krysten Sinema, who represents the state’s 9th Congressional District, which just happens to include Phoenix and a large segment of Maricopa County. Prior to that, Sinema served as a state legislator in both Arizona’s House of Representatives and State Senate.
In any case, Arpaio’s entry into the race, which was rumored ever since he received the pardon from Trump, is likely to draw more national attention to a race that is already considered one of the most important Senate races of 2018.