The recipient of Donald Trump's first presidential pardon is currently out of the spotlight, but he might not be content to stay there: Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio might run for Senate. He told the Daily Beast that he is "seriously, seriously, seriously considering running" for Arizona senator.
According to the publication, Arpaio doesn't want to bother himself with the soon-to-be vacated House seat of Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks, who announced he'll step down in January after it came out that he had discussed surrogacy with at least two female staffers in his office. Instead, Arpaio has his sights set on the upper legislative body — specifically, the seat that Sen. Jeff Flake will leave empty when he retires at the end of his term. Arpaio said that he had not spoken about a potential run with President Trump, whom he staunchly supports, but he said, "If I run, I'm running for him."
If he does indeed run, Arpaio will enter the race with a significant amount of notoriety. The former sheriff became a household name, particularly on the right, because of his extremely hardline position on illegal immigration. He endorsed Donald Trump very early in his campaign, and they agreed on the subjects of immigration and were both birthers, incorrectly claiming that President Obama's birthplace was outside of the United States. However, Arpaio went beyond merely holding extreme beliefs on immigration — he actually put many of them into action, and this led to a conviction of criminal contempt of court.
Specifically, the conviction came because Arpaio had a habit of targeting immigrants in conducting traffic stops and detaining them, sometimes regardless of whether they were legally in the country or not. One Mexican man in the United States on a valid tourist visa sued Arpaio after the then-sheriff held him in detention for nine hours without any legitimate reason for doing so. This case on behalf of one man evolved into a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all Latino drivers in Maricopa County who alleged that Arpaio had been racially profiling them. When the judge ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people who weren't suspected of a crime, the sheriff ignored the judge's preliminary injunction and continued to pull people over.
After years of detaining people simply because he suspected them to be illegal immigrants, denying that he had done so to judicial authorities, and actively trying to obstruct justice in his own case, Arpaio was finally convicted of criminal contempt of court in the summer of 2017.
Arpaio's critics don't only have his legal troubles to rest their criticisms on, however. Arpaio also maintained what he called a "concentration camp" for undocumented immigrants, where he kept people in appalling conditions and regularly subjected them to humiliating practices that some have said amounted to torture. He neglected the health issues of inmates in his prisons, leading to dozens of wrongful death lawsuits in his county and an extremely high suicide rate among his inmates.
The former sheriff was always a loyal supporter of Trump, though, and that loyalty is likely part of the reason why Trump decided to pardon Arpaio in August, soon after his conviction. The pardon, which likely would have drawn critical responses even in normal circumstances, became the object of heated condemnations because it came so soon after Trump had equivocated in his reaction to the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many argued that Arpaio displayed the same sort of bigotry that was on display in those rallies, in which one counter-protester lost her life.
Arpaio will still have a long road ahead of him if he does indeed decide to run, and it's in no way guaranteed that he would win the election. If past is prologue, however, it's very likely that he would have the president's support in any of his efforts.