Former Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced on Tuesday that he plans to run for Republican Senator Jeff Flake’s soon-to-be-vacant seat.
In a phone interview with the conservative Washington Examiner, which broke the news of his campaign, Arpaio said he would work with President Donald Trump should he be elected and insisted that his run is not a ham-fisted attempt at attention.
“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” Arpaio told the 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 was one of president Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters during the 2016 election, appearing with him at campaign rallies and boosting his agenda during cable news appearances—particularly on Trump’s hardline immigration policies. The relationship appeared to pay off when Trump pardoned Arpaio in August, after the former sheriff was found guilty of contempt for refusing to stop racially profiling residents of Maricopa County.
In his interview with the newspaper, Arpaio also shared this bizarre sentiment:
“My mother and father came here from Italy, legally of course. I have a soft spot for the Mexican community having lived there,” Arpaio said. “I’m not going to get into my personal life, but I will say we have four grandkids and some have a different ethnic and racial background. I don’t say that. I don’t use my grandkids. So, I have a soft spot, but still, I’m going to do my job. You have to do it.”
Arpaio also promised to bring his extreme anti-immigration stances with him to the Senate, should he be elected.
“Being a U.S. senator is a little different than being the sheriff, because you can do a lot of things in the U.S. Senate, and I have many plans, believe me,” he explained. “It’s tough. It’s a tough decision. But, if you’re going to come across that border, you should be arrested and get the consequences of it.”
So far, Arpaio will face off against Kelli Ward, a Steve Bannon-endorsed state senator who has described herself as a “a build-the-wall, stop-illegal-immigration Americanist” in the Republican primary.
The former sheriff will hopefully face an uphill electoral battle over his record of carrying out widespread psychological and physical abuses against the inmates under his care. Arpaio lost his most recent re-election campaign for Maricopa County Sheriff by a more than 10-point margin. But given his apparent closeness with Trump, it is possible—if not likely—that Arpaio could receive an endorsement from the White House that would rev up Arizona’s conservative base and make him a serious contender for Flake’s seat.
It’s a possibility Arpaio seems eager to capitalize on. In a tweet officially announcing his candidacy, he stated that he was running “for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again.”