May 11, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Gay Ariz. sheriff drops congressional bid

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (photo by Gage Skidmore via wikimedia commons)

A gay Arizona sheriff who was seeking election to Congress — and made his sexual orientation known following allegations he tried to deport his ex-boyfriend — has dropped his bid for a U.S. House seat.

Paul Babeu, who was running for the Republican nomination to represent Arizona’s 4th congressional district, announced Friday he was ending his congressional campaign because the candidate he supported to replace him as sheriff, Chief Deputy Sheriff Steve Henry, was facing difficulties.

According to a statement on Babeu’s campaign website, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel informed Henry he can’t run for sheriff while serving as chief deputy because the sheriff’s office receives federal money and Henry supervises people who control those funds.

Babeu said no option was satisfactory: Henry faced the choice of either dropping his bid for sheriff, resigning his position as chief deputy or working in another position within the office. As a result, Babeu said he would he drop his congressional bid and run for re-election as sheriff.

“Forget the politics, none of these options are good to maintain continued success of our Sheriff’s Office,” Babeu saud. “I have decided to end our congressional campaign and seek re-election as Pinal County Sheriff. Yesterday, I informed my campaign staff and our finance team of my decision to run for re-election.”

Babeu’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on whether any difficulties the congressional candidate encountered after he came out prompted him to drop his congressional bid.

The candidate was facing fundraising difficulties. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Babeu took in $144,007 in the first quarter of 2012 – far short of the $263,303 he raised in the final quarter of last year.

In a Phoenix New Times article published Feb. 16, Jose Orozco, a 34-year-old from central Mexico who helped Babeu with his political career, told the paper the sheriff threatened him with deportation if he were to reveal their years-long relationship. Babeu denied the charge, but came out as gay later in the week.

At the time, Babeu served as co-chair for the Romney campaign in Arizona, but resigned his role in the presidential campaign following the publication of the Phoenix New Times article while still pursuing a run for Congress.

New allegations emerged after Babeu came out. A local ABC news affiliate published a report that he administered harsh treatment for students as executive director of DeSisto Private Boarding School in Massachusetts. Additionally, the report quotes Babeu’s sister, Lucy Babeu, who claims he was involved in a relationship with a 17-year-old male student at the school.

The student was over the age of consent in Massachusetts. Babeu denied all the allegations in the report and said his sister suffers from mental health issues.

In an interview with the Washington Blade shortly after he came out, Babeu said he was “110 percent” in the race and if he were elected to Congress he could change Republican colleagues minds on LGBT issues. The sheriff said he supports “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and pledged to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as well as repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Babeu had support from gay conservatives. In the interview, Babeu said he spoke with National Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud. Jim Kolbe, a openly gay former member of Congress who represented Arizona, endorsed Babeu in an email to the Blade.

More to come…

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

3 Comments
  • I’m not sure the reason for Babeu’s dropping out makes much sense. Wouldn’t the actual sheriff face the same difficulty as a chief deputy sheriff, if oversight of federal funds is that actual reason? The elected sheriff has utltimate authority over those funds whereas the chief deputy sheriff’s authority is derivative. And why would it be such a burden to reassign the chief deputy in order to maintain his electoral eligibility under some strange federal ruling? The whole thing sounds made up. I’d love to hear the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s explanation on this and wonder why the reporter didn’t seek it out.

  • CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    LET’S HOPE PAUL BABEU STAYS ALIVE. TO “COME OUT,” THEN, RUN FOR RE-ELECTION AS SHERIFF SOUNDS “TRICKY.” LAW ENFORCEMENT SEEMS TO NOT HAVE A GOOD “TRACK” RECORD WHEN IT COMES TO ORGANIZATIONAL MORALE IN REFERENCE TO OPENLY-HOMOSEXUAL OFFICERS. OBVIOUSLY, MR. BABEU HAS A PROBLEM WITH HIS SISTER. HOWEVER, I WOULD NOT HAVE SAID SHE IS MENTALLY ILL IF THE “REAL” ISSUE IS HER NON-ACCEPTANCE OF HIS HOMOSEXUALITY. IT IS GREAT TO KNOW MR. BABEU DATED A SEVENTEEN-YEAR OLD WITHOUT BEING IN LEGAL TROUBLE – KUDOS TO MASSACHUSETTS.
    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

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