Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, whose messy split from an ex-boyfriend rocked his campaign for US Congress, has announced that he is no longer a candidate and will instead run for reelection as sheriff.
Back in February, Phoenix New Times ran a story in which Babeau’s ex-boyfriend, Jose Orozco, accused the lawman of asking him to sign an agreement not to publicly discuss their relationship. When the offer was refused, he said Babeu, and his lawyer, allegedly threatened him with deportation.
Babeu denied the allegation and vowed to continue his run for congress. But he did resign from his position as chairman the Mitt Romney’s presidential effort in Arizona.
In his message to supporters, Babeu makes no mention of the scandal involving Orozco or the hit he took in fundraising as a result. Instead, he said his actions are to keep a promise he made to ‘ensure continuity of leadership in the Sheriff’s Office.’
His chief deputy, Steve Henry, had been running to succeed Babeu as sheriff. But Babeu said Henry has learned that he would not be able to run for sheriff while serving as chief deputy due to federal funding rules. He was left with the options of resigning as chief deputy to run for sheriff, withdrawing his candidacy, or transferring to a non-leadership role and continuing to run.
‘Forget the politics, none of these options are good to maintain continued success of our Sheriff’s Office,’ Babeu told supporters. ‘I have decided to end our congressional campaign and seek re-election as Pinal County Sheriff.’
Babeu was propelled into the national spotlight after the accusations from Orozco surfaced. He said an interview with CNN in February: ‘Political consultants told me ‘Paul, this could come out.’ I said, ‘You know what? People have threatened me my whole life. I’m not motivated by negativity and threats. I’m motivated by the positive.’
In March, Orozco filed a legal claim against Babeu and the Pinal County Board of Supervisors indicating that he intends to seek $1 million in damages alleging abuse of power, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, defamation and other civil-rights violations.
Orozco has said he is in the US on a 10-year tourist visa and that Babeu never asked him his legal status despite the lawman’s strong political stance against illegal immigration.