Paul Babeu ends congressional campaign, seeks reelection as sheriff

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu announced early Friday morning in an email that he will end his congressional campaign.

He says he will instead seek reelection in Pinal County.

Babeu's possibility of ending his run for Congress was questioned Tuesday after a published report that suggested that he will quit.

"I thank all my friends and supporters for their help and loyal support," Babeu wrote in the email. "I ask that you understand my promise to those I serve in Pinal County."

VIDEO: Babeu talks with ABC15 about ending run for Congress

Babeu said his decision to enter the race for sheriff is because of recent developments surrounding his chief deputy, Steve Henry.

Babeu, Henry and several other of the sheriff's top aides are under investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for possible unlawful political activity.

State law prohibits candidates from running for an elected position and holding public office. Henry had an exploratory committee open and was actively fundraising for a race for sheriff.

On Friday, federal officials confirmed to the ABC15 Investigators that they set a deadline for Henry to get out of the race or resign his position.

Babeu said he didn't want to leave his office to someone other than Henry.

Henry issued his own statement, saying he is fully supporting Babeu's re-election.

As of this morning, Babeu's campaign had not turned in signatures needed to be put on the ballot, according to the county election department. However, he would only need to gather about 250 total signatures before the deadline at the end of the month.

Babeu joins a crowded race for sheriff. There are at least five others running to be the top cop in Pinal County.

Babeu's end to his bid for Congress was widely speculated for weeks.

The decision comes after several controversies engulfed Babeu and his top staff, including:

- Photos surfacing of Babeu in his underwear from dating websites, leading the sheriff to admit he is gay.
- An ABC15 Investigation that exposed Babeu's history with a controversial Massachusetts boarding school that was shut down after a state investigation found widespread physical and sexual abuse. Babeu was also accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old male student.
- An investigation by the Arizona Solicitor General tasked with determine if Babeu threatened to deport his ex-lover and Mexican national, Jose Orozco.
- An federal investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel looking at several allegations of illegal campaign activity by Babeu and top members of his staff.
- An investigation by the Pima County Attorney's Office to determine if Babeu and his staff illegally deleted thousands of e-mails and other public records.

Babeu has also come under fire recently for his budget, which carried a $1.6 million deficit.

Read the full email below:

Friends and supporters,

First, let me say how much your friendship and support means to me. When I announced my candidacy for Congress, I promised the citizens of Pinal County that I would ensure continuity of leadership in the Sheriff's Office. Chief Deputy Steve Henry's candidacy not only ensured continuity of leadership, it also safeguarded the improved service we've delivered to Pinal families with the same passion and commitment since taking office.

The federal Office of Special Counsel has advised Chief Henry that because our office receives federal funds and Steve supervises those who are in control of federal funds, he is not able to run for Sheriff while serving as our Chief Deputy.

Chief Henry was left three choices, resign his position as Chief Deputy and run for Sheriff, withdraw his candidacy for Sheriff or transfer to a non-leadership position within our office where he would not supervise anybody who handles any federal funding. Forget the politics, none of these options are good to maintain continued success of our Sheriff's Office. I have decided to end our congressional campaign and seek re-election as Pinal County Sheriff. Yesterday, I informed my campaign staff and our finance team of my decision to run for re-election.

Improvements in service and performance is obvious to residents and evidenced by response times being cut in half, quality annual training and state of the art equipment for staff. The 1,500 inmate Jail in Florence achieved national accreditation, becoming Arizona's only Jail achieving this high distinction and validation of excellence.

We have enforced all laws and our deputies led the largest drug bust in Arizona history against the Sinaloa $2-3 Billion Cartel operation, netting 76 arrests and seizing 108 weapons. We have created an air operation with 2 helicopters and piper cub fixed wing aircraft at no cost to Pinal taxpayers. We have helped shape discussion on national issues of public safety, border security, illegal immigration, fighting Mexican Drug Cartels, exposing Fast and Furious and defending the constitution.

Only three

years ago, just 27 patrol cars had computers to write reports, view maps and receive dispatched calls. Now every vehicle is fully equipped with the most modern equipment. Deputies and Detention Officers were not even trained or certified in First Aid and CPR training, now everyone is certified and countless lives saved by our first responders. The volunteer ranks in our Citizens on Patrol have tripled and a youth Explorer leadership program was created and has earned statewide awards in competition and volunteerism.

I thank all my friends and supporters for their help and loyal support. I ask that you understand my promise to those I serve in Pinal County. The most important issues, our performance and results as Sheriff have brought our Sheriff's Office to prominence and this must continue. 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. I was elected because I listen and respond to the people I represent. 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.

While serving as Sheriff, I've always kept my promises. From ending photo radar, improving response times, providing quality training for nearly 700 full time staff and earning Jail accreditation. Every promise that I made was kept and delivered. We shall continue the true forward movement of law enforcement performance and results. In the end, that's all that matters. I need your help and ask for your continued support as we seek re-election as Sheriff.

Respectfully,

Paul Babeu, Sheriff

Pinal County, Arizona

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