By LOUIS NELSON
Controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio said Monday that he is considering another run for public office, including a potential primary challenge against Sen. Jeff Flake.
Arpaio, a vocal supporter of Trump’s during the campaign, was unseated last November from his position as Maricopa County sheriff. But with his name in the spotlight once again following a pardon from Trump last week, Arpaio said he could mount another bid for public office.
“I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate,” the former sheriff told The Washington Examiner. He said “I’m sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me” to challenge Flake (R-Ariz.), who refused to endorse Trump during last year’s election and has been among his most vocal GOP critics.
“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,” he said.
Arpaio gained notoriety as sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County for his hardline stance on illegal immigration and the harsh conditions he maintained at the jail he oversaw. He was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, a case that stemmed from his office’s continued racial profiling of Latinos in violation of a court order.
Trump pardoned Arpaio for the conviction late last Friday, one in a flurry of controversial announcements from the White House that came just as a category four Hurricane made landfall along the Texas coast. On Twitter, Flake was critical of the pardon, writing that “I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.”
Throughout his political career, Arpaio has frequently floated himself as a candidate for higher office and used those trial balloons to raise campaign money. When he announced in May 2014 he wouldn’t seek the state’s open governorship that year — he had teased a potential bid in a fundraising email two months prior — the Arizona Republic noted it was the fifth time Arpaio publicly considered running for governor but ultimately passed on the race.
Kelli Ward, whose 2016 primary challenge of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) failed, has already announced that she will challenge Flake in 2018. In her race against McCain, Ward suggested that the longtime senator should be unseated based on his age, telling a POLITICO reporter that he was unlikely to serve out another full six-year term.
Arpaio, who is 85 years old, bristled at the notion that his age might count against him if he were to run for office again. He told the Examiner that “there is discrimination against senior citizens, big time” and that “the bottom line is there’s no way I’m going to go fishing. I have no hobbies.”
“They just say Sheriff Joe Arpaio comma 85 years old. Why do they always say that?” he said. “I’m proud to be my age. I work 14 hours a day. If anyone thinks my age is going to hold me back, I’ve got news for them.”
Steven Shepard contributed to this report.