Pinal County Sherriff Paul Babeu, GOP candidate for Arizona’s 4th congressional district and co-chairman of Romney’s Arizona campaign, is well-known for his tough stance on illegal immigration. Apparently, as he stated in a press conference yesterday, he’s also gay. The admission comes on the heels of a scandal that’s forced him to resign from the Romney campaign (although he still plans to run for the House seat).
Reports first surfaced Friday that an ex-boyfriend, a Mexican immigrant known only as “Jose,” had been threatened with deportation and intimidated into silence about his several-year relationship with the Sherriff. The two met on a gay dating site in 2006, and were apparently close – Jose even went so far as to help Babeu set up a campaign website, Facebook page and Twitter account.
They broke up after Jose discovered Babeu cheating, and Jose claims that, in addition to asking for the passwords to the campaign site and social media accounts, Babeu’s lawyer also wanted Jose to sign a document keeping him from speaking about their relationship. At this point, their stories diverge: Jose claims that Babeu threatened to have him deported if he didn’t sign the non-disclosure agreement. Finally, after months of harassment, Jose reached out to the Phoenix New Times, a local paper, because he was “tired of living in fear.”
Jose turned over copies of emails, text messages and photos of himself and Babeu to the paper to verify his story. He says that since the breakup, he’s had to move twice, is trying to change jobs and has spent his entire savings on legal defenses against Babeu’s lawyer. Jose claims to be in the country legally, and not on an expired Visa as Babeu’s attorney alleges.
Babeu is taking a strange approach to defending himself – he denies the charges of threatening Jose, of course, but in speaking to the press, he’s basically told them that his personal life is none of their business. He’s actually defending his homosexuality, going so far as to reluctantly affirm that he supports gay marriage, and the ability for gays to openly serve in the military. It would be a refreshing change of pace for a Republican candidate, if he weren’t suddenly embracing these new positions publically out of desperation.
He apparently doesn’t see any problem with a high-profile law enforcement officer trolling gay hookup sites and sending naked photos to anonymous men online, either – although it’s worth noting that the Pinal County Board of Supervisors chairman, Pete Rois, disagrees, and has called for Babeu’s immediate resignation.
For now, the Sherriff has made clear he plans to stick it out, despite the controversy. He refuses to step down from his position and he has made clear that he doesn’t think these revelations will impact his ability to run for Congress on the Republican ticket. That one’s up to the voters of Arizona to decide, and I think Paul Babeu may be just a little overly optimistic on that score.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore