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Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces he is running for Flake’s Senate seat

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Tuesday that he would run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Jeff Flake, who will not seek re-election.

“I am running for the U.S. Senate from the great state of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to make America great again,” the sheriff said in a release.

Related: Timeline of Arpaio’s career | Contempt conviction won’t block run

“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” Arpaio told the Washington Examiner.

“I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted. But I would not being 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 told Talking Points Memo that he had not discussed his Senate bid with Trump or other White House officials.

He also did not seem worried about the upcoming Republican primary that will pit him against former state Sen. Kelli Ward and, possibly, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who has yet to officially announce for the race.

“I’ve never lost a Republican primary in my political career. I don’t expect to lose this one either,” he told Talking Points Memo.

David Berman, a senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute of Public Policy, said if Arpaio follows through on his announcement, his candidacy will likely hurt Ward’s chances.

Arpaio will probably siphon off support from some Trump voters and tea party supporters. “I think he would wipe her out,” Berman said.

Zachery Henry, a spokesman for Ward’s campaign, said the campaign is not concerned that Arpaio would split the GOP vote to Ward’s detriment.

Should he win the primary, Arpaio will likely face Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the general election.

The former sheriff, who is 85, had said his age would not be a factor in his decision to seek another public office.

“I’m proud to be my age. I work 14 hours a day,” he told the Examiner in October. “If anyone thinks my age is going to hold me back, I’ve got news for them.”

Trump pardoned Arpaio on Aug. 25, saying the former sheriff had worked for years “protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”

Arpaio was found guilty in late July of misdemeanor contempt for continuing his immigration sweeps for 17 months after a judge ordered him to stop.

The pardon essentially made Arpaio an innocent man, though the Constitution does not prohibit convicted criminals from running for office.

For decades, Arpaio was known for jailing inmates in outdoor tents during triple-digit heat and forcing them to wear pink underwear. He also conducted dozens of immigration crackdowns over a nine-year period, retaliated against political enemies and failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crimes complaints made to his office.

Flake, who has a long history of publicly feuding with the president, said he would have “preferred that the president honor the judicial process and let it take its course.”

The former sheriff was ousted from the job he had held for 24 years by Democrat Paul Penzone in November.

His re-election defeat came amid a crush of criticism over the $141 million in legal costs that Maricopa County taxpayers footed for defending him in lawsuits focused on his immigration policies, the deaths of inmates in his jails and a child sex abuse case that was botched by his department’s investigators.

The primary to decide nominees will be in August, followed by the general election in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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