Joe Arpaio for Senate?
It's possible we haven't heard the last from "Sheriff Joe."
Fresh off his controversial Presidential pardon, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is reportedly considering running against Senator Jeff Flake for the Republican Senate nomination next year:
Controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio said Monday that he is considering another run for public office, including a potential primary challenge against Sen. Jeff Flake.
Arpaio, a vocal supporter of Trump’s during the campaign, was unseated last November from his position as Maricopa County sheriff. But with his name in the spotlight once again following a pardon from Trump last week, Arpaio said he could mount another bid for public office.
“I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate,” the former sheriff told The Washington Examiner. He said “I’m sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me” to challenge Flake (R-Ariz.), who refused to endorse Trump during last year’s election and has been among his most vocal GOP critics.
“All I’m saying is the door is open and we’ll see what happens. I’ve got support. I know what support I have,” he said.
Trump pardoned Arpaio for the conviction late last Friday, one in a flurry of controversial announcements from the White House that came just as a category four Hurricane made landfall along the Texas coast. On Twitter, Flake was critical of the pardon, writing that “I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.”
Throughout his political career, Arpaio has frequently floated himself as a candidate for higher office and used those trial balloons to raise campaign money. When he announced in May 2014 he wouldn’t seek the state’s open governorship that year — he had teased a potential bid in a fundraising email two months prior — the Arizona Republic noted it was the fifth time Arpaio publicly considered running for governor but ultimately passed on the race.
Arpaio, who is 85 years old, bristled at the notion that his age might count against him if he were to run for office again. He told the Examiner that “there is discrimination against senior citizens, big time” and that “the bottom line is there’s no way I’m going to go fishing. I have no hobbies.”
“They just say Sheriff Joe Arpaio comma 85 years old. Why do they always say that?” he said. “I’m proud to be my age. I work 14 hours a day. If anyone thinks my age is going to hold me back, I’ve got news for them.”
This statement is far from an official campaign announcement, of course, and it’s worth noting that Arpaio has flirted with the idea of running statewide in the past only to back away from actually getting into the race. Given that, and taking into account both Arpaio’s age and the fact that his wife has reportedly been recently diagnosed with cancer, it’s worth taking reports like this with a grain of salt. Additionally, it’s unclear that Arpaio would actually be much of a threat to Flake in a statewide race. In addition to the controversy that his pardon has generated both inside Arizona and nationally, the idea that he’d have an easy time in a race against much younger candidates who have actually run statewide before. Finally, there’s the fact that Arpaio lost his re-election bid last November by nearly 200,000 votes in a county where he had won decisively numerous times in the past. By all accounts, the former Sheriff isn’t nearly as popular in the rest of Arizona as he was in his home jurisdiction, so it’s unclear that he’d really be a serious contender in a statewide Republican Party.
Counterintuitively, getting Arpaio into the race could possibly end up benefiting Senator Flake in what is likely to be a tough re-election bid. Right now, his only announced serious challenger is Kelli Ward, a State Senator who was first elected in 2012 and who last ran for election as a challenger to John McCain just last year. McCain ended up beating Ward by more than 70,000 votes in that battle, but many observers expect her to be a strong challenger against Flake, who is making his first bid for re-election after being elected to the Senate seat formerly held by Jon Kyl in 2012. If Arpaio or others were to enter the race, it’s possible that the anti-Flake vote, which will likely be made up mostly of strong supporters of the President, will be divided enough that the Senator will be able to eke out a win in the primary with a plurality of the vote. In any case, at the very least this announcement means we’ll likely still be hearing more from the guy that President Trump refers to as “Sheriff Joe.”