On Tuesday, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced his candidacy to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Arizona to replace Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who will retire at the end of 2018.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Arpaio said he's looking forward to a fight from both the left and right as he enters a crowded Republican field with the likes of Kelli Ward and presumably Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
"I am outspoken. I’m looking forward to it. Let them come. They’ll have their political firing squads and bring tons of money here, because they don’t want to lose,” Arpaio said. “I just want to do everything I can to support our president."
In 2016, Arpaio lost his re-election bid for Maricopa County sheriff to Democrat Paul Penzone. It was a post he had held for 24 years. In July 2017, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for failing to cease his use of racial profiling tactics in his efforts to curb illegal immigration. He was then pardoned for his crime by President Trump a month later.
Arpaio's decision to run is interesting considering his age, 85, and the fact that he's spent his entire career alienating his constituents, particularly Hispanics, in the name of restoring law and order. Yet, his announcement strikes a significant blow to Ward's candidacy. He can raise more money than Ward because of his polarizing reputation and name recognition, and also draw out some die-hard supporters from Maricopa County.
McSally, who has yet to announce her candidacy officially, would be seen as a more establishment figure running in the Republican primary. Ward is seen as the pro-Trump populist candidate with endorsements from Sean Hannity; Laura Ingraham; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Mark Levin; and Steve Bannon. Interestingly enough, Ward has put some distance between herself and Bannon by removing his name from her list of endorsements after he resigned as executive chairman from Breitbart on Tuesday following disparaging comments he made about President Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., in Michael Wolff's new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
Arpaio entering the race really cuts into Ward's base of voters and prominent supporters in the media. He's good friends with President Trump and Hannity. There's a good chance that whoever gets their definitive endorsements in the lead-up to the August primary will get the nod for the Republican nomination. The one problem is, if McSally runs, the pro-Trump vote will be split between Ward and Arpaio, which would almost guarantee a McSally primary victory and potential general election victory, too.
If Arpaio or Ward win the nomination, they'll face a stiff test from Democrats and establishment Republicans, similar to Roy Moore in Alabama. For a state that Trump carried by just more than 4 percentage points, the blue wave might rush through the Grand Canyon State in 2018 and Arpaio's candidacy might be the reason why.
Siraj Hashmi is a commentary video editor and writer for the Washington Examiner.