(Reuters) — Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff known for his tough stance on illegal immigration and a close ally of President Donald Trump, said on Tuesday he would run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake.
“I am running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again,” Arpaio said on Twitter.
He promised in an email to supporters that he would represent “a conservative vote” on which Trump could count.
Arpaio’s candidacy adds a twist to the hopes of the Democratic Party in one of only two Republican-held Senate seats Democrats see as possible to flip in November’s mid-term elections. Republicans hold a 51-49 edge in the U.S. Senate.
A federal judge had ruled that Arpaio wilfully violated a 2011 injunction barring his officers from detaining Latino drivers solely on the suspicion that they were in the county illegally.
By pardoning racist ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, President Trump is “rewarding him for waging war on minority communities,” one group states in a court brief.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a 2011 report that Arpaio had nurtured a culture in his office of racially discriminating against Latinos in breach of the U.S Constitution, a charge Arpaio denied.
Arpaio, who dubbed himself “the toughest sheriff in America,” lost a bid for re-election in 2016 in Arizona’s Maricopa County, one of the largest counties in the United States, after 24 years in office.
His tenure, including his tough stance on illegal immigration, made him one of the most widely known sheriffs in the country. He reinstated chain gangs; made inmates wear uniforms that were pink or old-fashioned black and white stripes; and forbade them coffee, salt and pepper.
Flake said in October he would step down from his Arizona seat in a speech on the Senate floor that criticized Trump, saying there “may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate.”
Arpaio, in his email to supporters, said he would defend gun owners, oppose abortion and work to reduce the national debt.
Krysten Sinema, a Democratic congresswoman, is hoping to flip the seat to her party in November. Kelli Ward, a former doctor and Arizona state senator, positioned her candidacy as a Republican to the right of Flake.