Friday May 11, 2012

PHOENIX (AP) -- A conservative Arizona sheriff who announced he is gay amid allegations of abuse of power announced Friday that he is no longer running for Congress.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said that he is dropping out of Arizona's 4th Congressional District race and will instead seek re-election as sheriff of the county in the southern part of the state.

[Babeu, 43, is a former North Adams, Mass., city councilor who gained national notoriety when he assumed that office at 18. A native of North Adams, Babeu was also a Berkshire County commissioner and was the headmaster at the former DeSisto School in Stockbridge from 1998 to 2001.]

[Babeu moved to Arizona in 2003 shortly after running for and losing a second time to former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III. Prior to his election as Pinal County's sheriff in 2008, Babeu worked for the Chandler (Ariz.) Police Department as a policeman.]

The Republican lawman is known for his stance on illegal immigration and border security. His image took a beating in February when a former boyfriend who is a Mexican immigrant claimed the sheriff threatened him with deportation if he disclosed their relationship.

It led to Babeu disclosing he is gay and stepping down as co-chairman for Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign. His fundraising also dropped off after the disclosure.


Advertisement

In the announcement ending his congressional run, Babeu said he wants to seek re-election as sheriff instead because his chief deputy cannot run for the office. Babeu cited an earlier promise to constituents that he would maintain a continuity of leadership.

Babeu, whose statement did not mention the February disclosure, did not immediately return calls for comment.

Besides Babeu, three other Republicans are running for sheriff in Pinal County, an area between Phoenix and Tucson with a growing population, as well as two Democrats and an independent, the Arizona Republic reported. Remaining candidates in the Republican-leaning race include first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and Republican state Sen. Ron Gould.

Gosar said Babeu's decision "was the right one for him personally and the people in the district," while Gould said it "was proper under current circumstances."

Gould's campaign was largely self-funded but he recently received a fundraising boost when he was endorsed by the conservative Club for Growth's political action committee.

Gosar, of Flagstaff, decided to run in the 4th Congressional District after the 1st Congressional District became more competitive after redistricting. The 4th District includes most of northwestern Arizona, including Mohave and Yavapai counties.