Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County, has announced he is considering mounting a campaign to challenge Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Arpaio, who had a highly controversial career in law enforcement that ended with a criminal conviction for racially profiling Latinos, was pardoned by President Donald Trump.
On Aug. 28, Arpaio stated during an interview that he would seek political office after avoiding prison time.
"I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate," Arpaio told the Washington Examiner. The former sheriff added that he had received requests to challenge Flake in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
"I'm sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me," Arpaio said of a potential Senate campaign. "All I'm saying is the door is open and we'll see what happens. I've got support. I know what support I have."
Arpaio, 85, has been among the most polarizing law enforcement officials in the country. The former sheriff oversaw Maricopa County from 1993 until November 2016, when he lost his re-election bid.
For decades, Arpaio ignited controversy for placing inmates in an outdoor jail named "Tent City," where prisoners were subjected to sweltering temperatures. He also drew criticism for allegedly placing women and juveniles on chain gangs, reducing prison meals and using methods to humiliate inmates, according to CNN.
In 2012, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Arpaio's office, accusing the former sheriff of ordering his officers to racially profile Latinos.
Maricopa law enforcement had in some cases detained Latino residents based only the suspicion that they were in the country illegally.
In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio had violated the constitutional rights for Latinos in Arizona and ordered that his office cease racial profiling. In 2016, the judge referred Arpaio for criminal contempt, asserting that the former sheriff had disregarded his court order, according to The New York Times.
On July 31, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt.
The former sheriff had an ally in the White House. Both Arpaio and Trump had been prominent advocates of birtherism, the conspiracy that former President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen. During the 2016 presidential race, Arpaio heavily stumped for Trump's campaign in Arizona.
The former sheriff faced up to six months in prison. On Aug. 14, Trump disclosed that he was considering giving Arpaio a presidential pardon. On Aug. 22, Trump held a rally in Phoenix, where he was expected to announce a pardon for Arpaio. The president did not officially pardon the former sheriff during the rally but strongly hinted to attendees that a pardon was in the works, the Phoenix New Times reports.
On Aug. 25, the White House announced that Trump would issue a pardon for Arpaio. The move was swiftly criticized by both Flake and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, according to CNBC.
"[The president]'s pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law," McCain tweeted.
Flake tweeted, "Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course."
Arpaio, after having his conviction dismissed by the White House, is now reportedly eyeing Flake's Senate seat. The former sheriff asserted that his advanced age would not be a problem.
"I work 14 hours a day," Arpaio said. "If anyone thinks my age is going to hold me back, I've got news for them ... The bottom line is there's no way I'm going to go fishing. I have no hobbies."