FLORENCE, Ariz. — Paul Babeu, the embattled Arizona sheriff who came out as gay amid allegations of misconduct made by a man with whom he had a relationship, has dropped his bid for a seat in the U.S. Congress, and will instead seek another term as sheriff.
“I have decided to end our congressional campaign and seek reelection as Pinal County Sheriff,” Babeu wrote in a letter to supporters on Friday.
Babeu said he decided to withdraw from the race due to complications about the succession of his chief deputy, Steve Henry.
The federal government had ruled that Henry was unable to seek the sheriff’s office while serving as chief deputy because the office receives federal funds, according to Babeu. That ruling, he said, would have forced Henry to resign so he could run for sheriff.
Babeu was seeking a U.S. House seat in the state’s 4th Congressional District when he was “outed” by a former boyfriend who alleged that Babeu threatened to have him deported if their past relationship was made public.
Babeu, 43, confirmed that he did have a relationship with Jose Orozco, a Mexican nationalist, but denied allegations that he threatened him with deportation following their breakup.
Once a rising star in the Arizona Republican party, Babeu had been serving as co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Arizona, but but resigned as the story over the accusations went national. At the time, Babeu said he had no plans to suspend his campaign for Congress or resign his office as sheriff.
In his message, Babeu, a noted conservative who has been tough on illegal immigration and other border issues, made no mention of the controversy that led to his announcement about his sexual orientation.
Orozco has since filed a $1 million notice of claim against the sheriff and the county.
In the state of Arizona, in order to file a civil lawsuit against a public entity or employee, a “notice of claim” must first be filed, and the resulting civil action must be filed within one year.