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Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu wins Arizona congressional primary

PHOENIX — Pinal County may soon be putting out a “now hiring” sign for the job of its top cop.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu won the Republican primary in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday, meaning he will be the Republican Party’s candidate in the general election.

Babeu was perceived as the front-runner for a majority of the race, though it was far from a runaway victory.

The sheriff campaigned heavily on experience as an Army reserve officer commanding troops on the Arizona-Mexico border and his efforts as sheriff to stop drug-running through his county.

“Voters are tired of empty promises and speechmaking. I’ve produced results as a sheriff and in the military,” Babeu said prior to Tuesday’s vote. “I’m focused on talking about our national security, securing our border, protecting coal as an energy source and fighting for our state.”

Babeu’s win also means another election season of heartbreak for Springerville rancher and businessman Gary Kiehne.

He pumped more $1 million into his effort to win the GOP primary — nearly half from own money — but again came up short. He narrowly lost the primary in 2014 to then-House Speaker Andy Tobin.

Babeu also beat out former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, retired Air Force Pilot Wendy Rogers and Navajo Nation businessman Shawn Redd.

He will face Democrat Tom O’Halleran in November’s general election, who beat Miguel Olivas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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