Joe Arpaio, the notorious anti-immigrant former sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ, is running for U.S. Senate. He seeks to fill the seat vacated by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who announced his retirement this fall after levying harsh criticism at President Trump and diminishing his chances of winning a GOP primary. The news of Arpaio’s candidacy was first reported this morning by the Washington Examiner.
The 85-year-old former sheriff has a long history of horrific treatment toward inmates, immigrants, and people of color. His persistent use of racial profiling led to a conviction of contempt of court last year, but he was pardoned by his longtime friend, President Trump.
Arpaio lost his election last year after more than two decades as sheriff in the county where Phoenix is located. He has previously flirted the idea of running for higher office, and announced on Twitter this morning that he will do so in order “to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump.”
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
— Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) January 9, 2018
By entering the Republican primary field in Arizona, Joe Arpaio complicates the plans of Kelli Ward, a former state senator who declared her candidacy in October immediately following Flake’s retirement announcement. Ward, like Arpaio, has an anti-establishment bent, and received an endorsement from former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. But her campaign took a hit last week when Bannon was publicly scorned by Trump for disparaging Trump’s son as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous” because of his meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Republican Rep Martha McSally is also expected to jump into the primary race soon. A more centrist Republican, McSally may benefit from Arpaio and Ward splitting the anti-establishment vote in the primary.
The winner of the GOP primary is likely to face Rep. Kyrsten Simena who is the favorite in the Democratic primary.
Arizona has not elected a Democratic senator since 1988.