FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — A sheriff seeking the GOP nomination for an Arizona congressional seat was forced to confirm he is gay Saturday and resigned from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s Arizona committee amid allegations of misconduct made by a man with whom he previously had a relationship.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu denied claims he tried to threaten the man, a Mexican immigrant and a former campaign volunteer, with deportation if their past relationship was made public. The man’s allegations were first published Friday in The New Times, a Phoenix alternative weekly magazine.
Babeu, a first-term sheriff who has risen to national prominence with his strong opposition to illegal immigration and smuggling, said the accusations were an attempt to hurt his political career.
He vowed to continue his campaign in Arizona’s rural western 4th Congressional District seat, but said he had called presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s staff to say he would step down from his post as state campaign co-chair.
“This whole rumor, this whole of idea of who I am in my private life has been shopped around,” Babeu told reporters during an hour-long press conference Saturday in front of his sheriff’s office. “This was a way, the hook, of how this could be brought out, and to malign and attack a sheriff who does stand for conservative principals, who does enforce the law.”
“What I’m trying to do is (be) as forthright as possible, talking about deeply personal, private matters, and trying to be upfront,” Babeu said. “The disclosure of that information is something that I feel no American should have to do.”