Paul Babeu has dropped his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, choosing instead to run for re-election as Pinal County Sheriff.
Babeu's campaign released a statement from him Friday morning saying that his decision to run again was based on the fact his chief deputy, Steve Henry, is unable to run for sheriff while serving in his current post.
The Republican sheriff told CBS 5 News during its morning show that he promised Pinal County citizens the sheriff's office would continue to "make true forward movement, and we will continue that."
"I'm not backing away from a battle," Babeu told CBS 5 News, adding he believed he was in a strong position in his race for Arizona's 4th Congressional District. "But I made a promise, and I've never made a promise I never kept."
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said that Henry's candidacy would be in violation of the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activity of individuals employed chiefly by state or local agencies who work in connection with programs funded in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.
Babeu had endorsed Henry to replace him as sheriff.
Babeu told CBS 5 News the move is politically motivated, and that there is a precedent in a Mohave County sheriff who ran for the office while serving as deputy chief. Babeu blames "some bureaucrat in Washington," citing an older law in preventing Henry from running.
Babeu said Henry was left with three options: resign as chief deputy to run as a sheriff's candidate, withdraw his candidacy for sheriff or transfer to a non-leadership position within the sheriff's office, where he would not supervise anyone who handles any federal funding.
"Forget the politics, none of these options are good to maintain continued success of our sheriff's office," Babeu said in the statement.
Henry said he was thankful for the support he received since forming his exploratory committee.
"It has truly been an honor to meet and speak to so many people during this effort and to learn what the value and how much public safety means to them," Henry said.
Babeu also thanked his friends and supporters in his congressional campaign.
"I ask that you understand my promise to those I serve in Pinal County," he said in the statement. "The most important issues, our performance and results as sheriff have brought our sheriff's office to prominence and this must continue."
Babeu announced his bid for Congress on Jan. 4.
After being named National Sheriff of the Year for 2011, Babeu in February announced that he is gay and once had a relationship with a Mexican immigrant named Jose Orozco while Orozco was a campaign volunteer.
Orozco later filed a $1 million Notice of Claim against Babeu and the county, alleging among other things that Babeu threatened to have him deported if he ever revealed their relationship.
Babeu denies that his decision to seek re-election had anything to do with the Orozco issue.
"If I can make it and survive through that, why on Earth would I jump now and get out of the race? I've never run away from a fight," Babeu said.
In April, a federal agency issued subpoenas to Babeu's office and the county board after Babeu's office refused to turn over two laptops for inspection. The subpoenas were issued by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which was looking into allegations that Babeu and several key aides were working on his congressional campaign with county resources while on duty.
Babeu said he believed he was the best candidate in District 4 and that he would have been a strong voice for Arizona.
"Everybody may not agree with me, but we get things done," Babeu said. "We do the job. At the end of the day, we perform at an exceptional level of service."
He said he would fully support the remaining GOP candidates, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and state Sen. Ron Gould, running for the seat.
"Both are good public servants, served in state senate and Congress and have private sector experience," Babeu said, adding that he believed both would be better for Arizona than any Democrat challenger.
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