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.
Trump won Arizona in 2016 by just 4.1 percentage points. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was rising in the state until the final 10 days of the presidential campaign, when the FBI revealed that it was taking a fresh look into her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state and halted her momentum.
Trump’s job approval numbers with nonwhites and suburbanites since have been poor. That’s potentially significant in Arizona, where both voting blocs can be influential.
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.
If you’re like to read the full transcript of the interview, CLICK HERE.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
January 9th, 2017
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