National News

America's toughest senator? Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces run for Senate

Posted January 9, 2018 1:43 p.m. EST

— Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced via Twitter Tuesday that he will be running for Senate.

"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," he tweeted.

His campaign website takes it a step further, hitting just right tone to mobilize Trump's base.

"We cannot sit idly by while our nation faces unprecedented challenges. President Trump needs my help in the Senate," reads "He needs a conservative vote he can count on, and a voice in the Senate who knows first hand the threats our nation is dealing with. And, that's why I'm running for United States Senate. ... I can't in good conscience sit back in retirement knowing that my grandchildren will inherit a country worse off than the America I've spent my entire life defending."

A polarizing figure in Arizona, Arpaio will be trying to win the seat now held but Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced in October that he would not seek re-election.

Arizona's Family Political Editor Dennis Welch said he was "pretty shocked by all this right now."

Welch confirmed with Arpaio spokesman Chad Willems that the former "toughest sheriff in America" will be filing the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office later today.

Welch, however, also wondered exactly how serious Arpaio is about becoming a senator.

"If he does take a serious run at this, this will dramatically shake up this race as Mr. Arpaio [is] definitely a polarizing figure with the general public but is still really beloved by a lot of Republican voters out there," Welch said.

Arpaio would be facing Kelli Ward, a former state senator, in the Republican primary. Ward made headlines in August when her campaign sent out a letter with the infamous picture of comedienne Kathy Griffin holding a decapitated, bloody head in the image of Trump.

Should Arpaio get past the primary, he would likely face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who announced her candidacy in September. Right now she represents Arizona's 9th Congressional District in the House.

Is Arpaio for real?

[I'm] still kind of skeptical about how serious he's going to take this run," Welch said. "He really likes a lot of the attention; he likes the media out there. He's been out of office for a little bit over a year .... We're going to see this play out here over the next few days, next few weeks, next few months. How serious is he about this?"

Arpaio has always exuded an abundance of confidence, even in defeat.

"I still got 640,000 votes. A lot of people still support me," he told Scott Pasmore in a candid interview two weeks after being voted out of office. "I would almost bet that those who voted against me this time probably support me."

That unwavering self-assurance hsa not changed.

"I'm going to have to work hard; you don't take anything for granted," Arpaio told Washington Examiner reporter David N. Drucker for the story that broke the news. "But I would not being [sic] doing this if I thought that I could not win."

Welch said that while Arpaio might do well in the Republican primary, "the General Election [is] a whole different story."

"You've got to remember, he lost by 12, 13 points in Maricopa County in 2016," Welch explained. "That's a big deal. That shows that he did have some erosion there with his Republican base supporters. ... But if he does get in, he does take this very serious, I think he's got a really great shot at making this really competitive in that primary election.

"He's proven he can definitely raise the money to be competitive and ruin a major campaign here for the U.S. Senate seat.," Welch continued.

Since losing his run for an unprecedented seventh term as Maricopa County's sheriff to Paul Penzone in November 2016, speculation has run rampant about what Arpaio's next chapter might look like.

In November, the sent an email to Arpaio's supporters asking whether the former sheriff should throw his hat into the Senate ring.

"You see, this is a very personal email, and I need my most trusted and dependable supporters to help me get it right, because President Trump needs my help, and I have to make a very big decision. . . very soon," the email said before going on to solicit donations to his defense fund.

Convicted of criminal contempt in 2017, Arpaio, now 85, received a presidential pardon in August and has since been working to remove the conviction from his record so it cannot be used against him in potential future legal actions.

"I feel very privileged for the president to issue this... pardon," Arpaio told Arizona Family at the time. "He's a big supporter of law enforcement. I know it came from his heart,"