Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu has dropped out of the Republican primary race to represent his district in Congress, according to CNN. In a letter on his website this morning, Babeu announced that he is running for re-election as sheriff of Pinal County to preserve “continuity of leadership” in the sheriff’s department after Chief Deputy Steve Henry was forced to abandon the race for county sheriff.
Babeu, who made headlines earlier this year when he was ‘outed’ as gay while serving as a surrogate for presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney(R-MA), wrote to supporters that the federal Office of Special Counsel had urged Henry to drop out of the sheriff’s race. Because of rules surrounding the department’s federal funding and election laws, Henry could not legally run for sheriff and serve as Chief Deputy simultaneously.
Babeu thanked his “friends and supporters for all their help and loyal support.” He asked for their understanding in this decision, and of his “promise to those I serve in Pinal County.”
The sheriff sharply denied earlier this year that he had threatened to deport an ex-boyfriend. Babeu resigned his post as co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign shortly after the allegations surfaced.
As a candidate in the Republican congressional primary, Babeu faced incumbent Representative Paul Gosar, who is currently serving his first term in office after being elected in 2010. CNN reports that financial disclosures reveal that Gosar’s fundraising at the end of March was almost double Babeu’s, with $700,000 in donations to Babeau’s $400,000.
Babeu said on his website that constituents have approached him on the campaign trail, concerned that election to Congress would blunt his ability to affect change. “Many Pinal residents have asked me to stay as their Sheriff and continue this fight. Many worried that my voice and impact would be lost if elected as one of 435 members of Congress.”
Now, having opted out of a congressional run, he assured them, “I want to continue to serve as Sheriff and focus on performance and results of public safety. No one can argue that our Sheriff’s Office isn’t better off than four years ago.”
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment for this article.