Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he was “very humbled” that Vice President Mike Pence singled him out of crowd at an event near Phoenix on Tuesday night.
“I was very humbled. I’m a private citizen now. I’m not the sheriff,” Arpaio told The Western Journal.
Arpaio, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate, added that he was also touched when the crowd, which he estimated to number about 1,000 people, stood and gave him a standing ovation. “That made me feel good, because I always said I’m going to win this election,” he said.
Pence gave a shout-out to the former lawman at an event in Tempe, Arizona, saying he was a “tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law.”
Pence added that Arpaio is “a great friend of this president … who spent a lifetime in law enforcement. … I am honored to have you here!”
Arpaio was one of the first Arizona political figures to endorse Trump during his 2016 presidential bid, and one of the few to do so during the Republican primary.
Last August, Trump pardoned Arpaio for a misdemeanor contempt of court conviction concerning alleged racial profiling of Latinos by his deputies.
The sheriff denied the charge and argued his department was in compliance with a 2011 court order regarding the matter. Arpaio stated his officers were only checking the immigration status of those detained for other suspected criminal activity.
Arpaio further contended that the Obama Justice Department filed a politically motivated criminal complaint against him just weeks before his November 2016 reelection bid in order to help his Democrat opponent defeat him. The Arizonan was first elected Maricopa County sheriff in 1992, but lost his race to serve a seventh term in Nov. 2016.
Arpaio noted that federal prosecutors chose a misdemeanor charge for the purpose of preventing him from receiving a jury trial. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, specifically denied Arpaio’s request for one and found the lawman guilty herself.
“It’s sad when they call me a convicted criminal all over the country,” Arpaio told The Western Journal. “It’s a misdemeanor. The same as a barking dog.”
The Arizonan said he plans to submit paperwork very soon to the Justice Department regarding the Obama administration’s actions and the federal courts’ actions toward him during his 2016 race. Asked if he planned to call for an investigation, Arpaio said he did not want to give too many details just yet.
Numerous media outlets castigated Pence for his favorable comments about Arpaio.
CNN tweeted, “Mike Pence did a dumb thing in Arizona. And yes, Joe Arpaio was involved.”
In the attached linked story, CNN’s Chris Cillizza contended that Pence’s comments were dumb because Arpaio does not respect the rule of law, based on his 2017 conviction and the previous court ruling against him. Further, Cillizza suggested that Pence should not be giving Arpaio’s Senate bid a boost by singling him out in the contested Republican primary.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 2, 2018
Arpaio is currently in a three-way race with former state Sen. Kelli Ward and Congresswoman Martha McSally.
Cillizza argued that an Arpaio win in the primary would make for a harder general election contest for Republicans against Democrat Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema.
Other media outlets hammered Pence’s praise of Arpaio too.
New York Magazine ran the headline, “Mike Pence Praises Notorious Criminal as Tireless Champion of the ‘Rule of Law.'”
Likewise, Esquire published a story with the title, “Oh, You Think President Mike Pence Would Bring Things Back To Normal?” The story focused primarily on the vice president’s comments about Arpaio.
Even some conservative outlets took shots at Pence.
The Washington Examiner ran a piece describing Arpaio as a “stain on his party.”
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) May 2, 2018
The Weekly Standard’s Charles Sykes — who was counted among the Never-Trumpers in 2016 and remains a frequent critic of the president — wrote that Pence’s comments about Arpaio clearly show he has been “corrupted” by Trump.
Arpaio, 85, has pledged to fully support Trump’s agenda if elected to the Senate and promised to only serve one term.
The most recent polling shows Arpaio in second place in the Republican primary behind Congresswoman Martha McSally.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows a tight race between McSally and Ward, with Arpaio not too far behind.
The primary election is slated for August.
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