Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has announced he is running for the Senate. The 85-year-old lawman is seeking to replace Jeff Flake, who is retiring this year.
As sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio was a hardliner on immigration, which earned him notoriety around the country. He has been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, and after he was convicted last year of ignoring a court mandate to end practices that were deemed racial profiling, Trump pardoned him.
The sheriff, who lost his elected sheriff’s office last year after more than two decades has long floated bids for higher office. But he announced on Twitter he would run for Senate “to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump.” If he wins the seat, Arpaio would be 86-years-old by the time he took office.
The statement came shortly after the publication of an interview with Washington Examiner, where Arpaio explained his reasoning for running to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” he told the paper.
“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 every day, anyway,” he said.
Arpaio has not yet filed an official statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission — he has two weeks to do so by law. Arpaio has flirted with bids for higher office before, only to not run. But his campaign website tells supporters that he is running, and has already begun accepting campaign cash under the laws for Senate candidates.
Arpaio’s announcement will be met by trepidation among establishment Republicans who have asserted after last month’s defeat in Alabama, where the party rallied around a candidate accused of sexual molestation of a teenage girl, that Republicans should not nominate controversial candidates.
Arpaio’s many controversial actions as sheriff included the use of an outdoor jail where he housed inmates in tents in the Arizona heat. A previous version of the sheriff’s office website touted that fact, noting that “all inmates … are subjected to the elements.”
He found himself in legal trouble last year after he violated a federal order related to a racial profiling case against him. But Trump pardoned Arpaio before he could face sentencing in a move that drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Arpaio’s entry into the race complicates the calculus for former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who had been the only major candidate in the Republican primary.
Ward has been endorsed by former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. But her campaign took a hit last week when Bannon landed on the wrong side of a dramatic rebuke from Trump after a new book quoted Bannon disparaging Trump’s son as “unpatriotic” for taking a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
Republican Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) is also expected to jump in soon but has not made a formal announcement. She could stand to benefit from Ward and Arpaio’s similar constituencies if the candidates split each other’s votes.