Arizona Sheriff Babeu Resigns From Romney Campaign, But Intends to Weather Scandal

Sheriff Paul Babeu

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu at a supporters rally for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in Paradise Valley, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

Over the past few days, Republican candidate for Arizona’s 4th Congressional District and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has been engulfed in a political and personal maelstrom.

The conservative (former) rising star, whose hardline immigration stance landed him co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Arizona, was forced to come out as gay after allegations surfaced that he threatened his Mexican ex-boyfriend with deportation (Politico reported that the ex is in the country legally).

Nancy-Jo Merritt, a longtime Phoenix immigration attorney, told the Phoenix New Times that Babeu’s threat is indicative of an “atmosphere that’s been created politically in this state, so that if you get angry at someone who is Hispanic, you immediately jump down to the level of threatening to deport him.”

Babeu denies the allegations that he threatened his ex with deportation, and he has refused to end his bid for a congressional seat. He did, however, resign from his post in Romney’s campaign.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday, Babeu declared that as a matter-of-fact he was the victim. He claimed that his ex-boyfriend, who had once volunteered for his campaign, stole private information, was sabotaging his run, and maligning his character. He also suggested that this was all politically motivated.

“The timing of this is more than coincidence, that nationally, that all of this stuff, for years, all the media here in Arizona, all five TV stations, enemies of mine, people have gone through my chain of command in the military to report that I’m gay,” he said.

Pete Rios, chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and a Babeu critic, and Respect Respeto, a Phoenix-based immigrant rights group, are calling for investigations into Babeu.

“These types of threats and acts of intimidation send a horrible message to the migrant community that they cannot look to their law-enforcement agencies for protection when they are victims of a crime,” Lydia Guzman, director of Respect Respeto, wrote the Department of Justice.

“It is my feeling that neither an elected official nor a law-enforcement officer should abuse their positions to make such threats upon an individual in exchange for their silence, and this is why I am respectfully requesting an investigation into this matter,” Guzman continued.

There’s no doubt Babeu’s opponents in Arizona are enjoying some schadenfreude, but Babeu’s threats to his ex, if true, reveal a frightening relationship between law enforcement and the state’s large Hispanic population that we should take seriously.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

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