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Arpaio submits signatures for Senate race, vows he’s a serious candidate

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday submitted more than 10,000 signatures in his bid to qualify as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

Arpaio joined a crowded field to replace Sen. Jeff Flake, who is not seeking re-election. Arpaio will face U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, and former state Sen. Kelli Ward in the primary. The winner  likely will face U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, in the general election. Also running in the Democratic primary is activist Deedra Abboud.

“I know there’s been a lot of word out there – subtly or not – that I’m not going to run, (and) I’m just doing this to get my name in the paper, which is kind of stupid,” Arpaio told a news conference.

Arpaio said he has every intention of taking the Senate seat. He asserted several times that he is a serious contender in the GOP primary, which will be held in August.

Campaign finance reports showed Arpaio trailed his competitors when it came to fundraising and voter polling.

Arpaio is an avid supporter of President Donald Trump. When he announced his candidacy in January, he said he was running “for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump.”

On Tuesday, Arpaio told reporters that he’s not a “yes man,” but added that he supported all of the president’s policies and looked forward to supporting the Trump agenda from Congress.

Arpaio stumbled over questions about Trump's economic policies, dodging queries about tariffs by saying, "I'm not in the Senate yet" and stating that he can't be expected to know everything about the issues.

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At a news conference outside the Capitol, a handful of people shouted at Arpaio, noting that he’s a convicted felon and saying he isn’t good for America.

“I’m concerned that he is going to be a rubber stamp for this president,” said Leonard Clark, who listened to the news conference. “You heard Joe Arpaio brag that he was glad that our president is sitting with our enemies, the enemies of the United States.”

In July 2017, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for failing to enforce a court order that he stop his deputies from racially profiling Latinos. Trump pardoned him in August, but Arpaio’s bid to have his criminal record cleared has been rebuffed by the courts. He was voted out of office 18 months ago.

Arpaio on Tuesday addressed his conviction by repeatedly stating, “I’m not a convicted felon.” He  said he is submitting a letter to the attorney general this week, but he would not disclose its contents.

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Amanda Fahey/Cronkite News

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (right) visits the state Capitol to drop off petitions to qualify him for the Aug. 28 GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Chris Hegstrom, a former spokesman with the sheriff’s office, carries some of the 10,000 signatures required to get Arpaio on the ballot.