Five months after being pardoned by his longtime friend and political ally President Donald Trump, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday announced his intention to run for the Arizona senate seat presently held by retiring Senator Jeff Flake.
Arpaio was convicted of ignoring a federal court order in a racial-profiling case but was pardoned before he was sentenced. The longtime immigration hardliner will likely face Kelli Ward and Rep. Martha McSally in the primary. McSally is expected to launch her campaign within days and is widely viewed as the Republicans’ strongest general election candidate, according to the Washington Examiner.
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— Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) January 9, 2018
In a telephone interview with the Washington Examiner, Arpaio discussed his plans for the race, while shrugging off concerns about his age and about the controversy surrounding his pardon.
He promised that, if elected, he would unflinchingly support President Trump's agenda.
“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 said he'd be willing to compromise on DACA; he even has what he called a "far-out" plan for getting them in the country legally.
“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.”
“That would be no amnesty, everybody would be happy, you deport them and then let them come back with all their education here. I’m sure they could find a temporary job or help the foreign countries and build up relations and come back. That’s just a big picture that I have. People may say I’m crazy. What am I crazy about? It just makes sense.
Arpaio described his conviction as a "political witch hunt" and said he alone arrived at his decision to run for the Senate. The examiner pointed out that, even if he loses in the primary, he's likely to excite the same conservative base that help tank Flake's approval ratings.
The former sheriff said he has not personally discussed his Senate bid with Trump and emphasized that he didn’t ask for the pardon nor did he know that it was coming. But Arpaio did not apologize for it, calling his conviction part of a political witch hunt by former President Barack Obama and his first attorney general, Eric Holder.
As one Twitter user pointed out, Arpaio is the second Republican candidate who has been convicted of a crime to announce his intention to run during the 2018 election cycle. The other is former New York Rep. Michael Grimm. Democrats, Arpaio said, will likely play up his conviction and lob accusations of bigotry his way.
But Arpaio says he's not worried, and that these criticisms wouldn't alter his hard-line approach toward immigration.