Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff notorious for his draconian views on immigration, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) later this year.
“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” Arpaio, 85, told the Washington Examiner in an interview published Tuesday. “I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted. But I would not [be] 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, who presided over Maricopa County for 24 years until 2016, refers to himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.”
His unorthodox and often discriminatory policing tactics got him into trouble when he disregarded a 2011 Department of Justice order that forbade him from detaining people illegally based on their immigration status. Authorities had found that Arpaio’s officers called Latinos “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans” and “stupid Mexicans.”
President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August. Both Flake and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opposed the pardon.
The former sheriff is also known for calling his state’s own jail a “concentration camp,” allowing jailers to break the neck of a paraplegic man, failing to investigate hundreds of sex abuse cases and botching a SWAT raid in which deputies allegedly laughed as a puppy burned to death.
Arpaio said he has a “soft spot” for the Mexican community given that his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy. However, that doesn’t seem to apply to immigrants who enter the country illegally.
“If you’re going to come across that border, you should be arrested and get the consequences of it,” he told the Washington Examiner.
Arpaio didn’t touch on any specific policy proposals, except for possibly supporting the legalization of some of the people benefiting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“When they come to your attention that they’re here illegally, these young people, deport them back to Mexico — or whatever — and then try to put them on a fast track to come back into the United States legally with special permits,” he said. “What’s wrong with that? They’d say they don’t know where their home country is, so let them go there and spend six months, because it might take that long to do paperwork to get them here legally and let them see their home country and see what it’s really like.”
Arpaio’s candidacy puts him up against Kelli Ward, a former state senator who challenged McCain in the 2016 Republican primary, and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R) ― though he doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned about the competition.
“I’ve never lost a Republican primary in my political career,” he told Talking Points Memo. “I don’t expect to lose this one either.”
Yet Arpaio’s legal troubles aren’t behind him. Flake’s son Austin filed a lawsuit against Arpaio in November for maliciously pursuing felony animal cruelty charges against him and his then-wife, Logan Flake.
Sen. Flake, for his part, didn’t mince words when asked about Arpaio’s bid to take his position, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Write about it fast, because it won’t last long,” Flake said.
This story has been updated to include Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments.