Sheriff Paul Babeu won’t be running for Congress.
The top lawman in Pinal County, Ariz., has decided to drop his bid for the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat and instead seek re-election as sheriff. Babeu had come to national attention as a vocal supporter of the anti-immigration stance of his colleague in neighboring Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is being sued by the United States to force him to comply with civil rights laws protecting Latino minorities.
But Babeu, who like Sheriff Joe is an advocate of strong border protections, was outed in February after a news investigation revealed he is gay and had allegedly threatened his Mexican ex-boyfriend with deportation after their break up. He had previously been considered a strong candidate in the 4th Congressional District.
Babeu continued to insist in interviews following the announcement that he wouldn’t run for Congress that he had been a “viable candidate” with enough money in his war chest to continue in the three-way race.
In stunning fashion in February, Babeu admitted he is gay but denied the allegations that he ever threatened his boyfriend of three years (who he says is a legal immigrant) with deportation. In short order, Babeu stepped down as Arizona co-chairman of presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.
The typically loose-lipped Arpaio told CNN in February that he was without words for Babeu.
Republican political consultant Bert Coleman told the Associated Press that Babeu knows he has to return to his home base to fix the broken trust. Nonetheless, Coleman predicts Babeu has good chances to win reelection.
“He’s got a lot of explaining to do and it will be easier for him to explain to the folks who know him best,” Coleman told the AP.
The remaining candidates in the congressional race are Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), the tea party-backed Republican incumbent, and state Sen. Ron Gould.