America's toughest senator? Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces - Tucson News Now

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

Former Maricopa County sheriff turned candidate for Senate Joe Arpaio at his office on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Source: Jason Barry, 3TV/CBS 5) Former Maricopa County sheriff turned candidate for Senate Joe Arpaio at his office on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Source: Jason Barry, 3TV/CBS 5)
The new main image of Arpaio's @realsheriffjoe verified Twitter account. (Source: Twitter) The new main image of Arpaio's @realsheriffjoe verified Twitter account. (Source: Twitter)
Click to enlarge (Source: Washington Examiner.com) Click to enlarge (Source: Washington Examiner.com)
Arpaio endorsed Trump in January 2016. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arpaio endorsed Trump in January 2016. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Joe Arpaio, the polarizing yet iconic former Arizona sheriff, beloved by many conservatives for his hawkish immigration policies, presents an alternative in the upcoming GOP Senate primary to Kelli Ward and Rep. Martha McSally. (Source: Photo/John Locher) Joe Arpaio, the polarizing yet iconic former Arizona sheriff, beloved by many conservatives for his hawkish immigration policies, presents an alternative in the upcoming GOP Senate primary to Kelli Ward and Rep. Martha McSally. (Source: Photo/John Locher)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

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.

[READ MORE: Joe Arpaio, controversial sheriff pardoned by Trump, enters AZ Senate race]

"We cannot sit idly by while our nation faces unprecedented challenges. President Trump needs my help in the Senate," reads SheriffJoeForAmerica.com. "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." 

[WATCH RAW VIDEO: Arpaio discusses decision to run for Senate with Jason Barry]

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

The 85-year-old former sheriff said that's he's not too old to be jumping back into politics.

"I don't think age is that important if you can do the job," said Arpaio. "We have people in the Senate and Congress that are old, if you want to call it old. I don't call it old."

Arpaio spent 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County, where he was extremely popular until he was voted out of office in 2016 following a wave of controversy.

Last year, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop racial profiling.

He was later pardoned by President Trump.

Arpaio said he recently decided to enter the U.S. Senate race to help support Trump's agenda and continue serving the people of Arizona.

"I love Arizona. I'll never leave Arizona," said Arpaio. "I still have something in my waning years to give back."

[RELATED: Arpaio's decision to run shakes up Senate race in Arizona]

[RELATED: Some expect rush of GOP hopefuls vying for Sen. Flake's seat]

[RELATED: Jeff Flake's Senate seat up for grabs]

[WATCH and READ: Sen. Flake's full speech on the Senate floor]

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.

[WATCH: Dennis Welch's first reaction]

"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. 

“Dr. Ward has great respect for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and welcomes him to the race,” Ward's campaign spokesman said in an email to Arizona's Family. “His candidacy shows that conservatives in Arizona are fed up with the status quo and know that we need senators who support President Trump and the America First agenda.”

Ward won Trump's approval via Twitter in August. At this point, it's not clear if the president will shift his support to the man who was among the first to endorse him in his bid for the White House.

[VIDEO: Former state senator Kelli Ward has Trump's support]

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 has 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.

Those who disapprove of Arpaio and his actions during his 24 years as Maricopa County's sheriff weighed in on his announcement.

“Arpaio clearly did not get the memo from voters who booted him out of office in 2016 and will meet the same fate running for U.S. Senate," Carlos Garcia of Puente Human Rights Movement said a statement e-mailed to Arizona's Family. "Arpaio is desperate and grasping to save a failed legacy. This is one place where President Trump cannot save him or pardon him into this seat. Arizona is heading in the opposite direction of his tired bigoted politics.”

Living United For Change in Arizona (LUCHA) echoed the sentiment.

“I have faith in Arizona’s voters, they spoke loud and clear about Arpaio’s abuses and waste of taxpayer’s money," Alejandra Gomez, the organizations c0-director said. "Our community has been fighting the bigotry and racism that Arpaio had been creating for the last 23 years. Our LUCHA members across the state will fight against Arpaio-Trump hate politics. Our voters and LUCHA members know they deserve more than a criminal running for U.S. Senate.” 

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.

[RELATED: Reign ends for Joe Arpaio, once popular immigration enforcer]

[READ MORE: 'America's toughest sheriff' says 'I did it my way']

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

[RELATED: Arpaio to supporters: Should I run for Senate?]

"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.

[MORE: Joe Arpaio stories]

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,"

[MORE: Arizona Politics]


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