It's been an eventful week for Pinal Sheriff Paul Babeu. Last week in an article in the Phoenix New Times, explosive allegations and revelations about Babeu claimed he was gay and had threatened a former lover with deportation if anything was said publicly about the relationship.
Saturday morning, Babeu called a press conference. Surrounded by dozens of uniformed duputies Babeu vehemently denied all allegations of wrongdoing, but admitted that he was gay. When asked why he had hidden his orientation, he said that it was part of his private life, and he had hoped to keep it private.
That night, Babeu attended the Yavapai Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner, as a candidate for Congressional District 4 (CD4). Babeu looked worn and exhausted, when asked if it had been a long day, he nodded and said, "Yes." Asked if he was hanging in there, he smiled slightly, and said, "Yes," again.
Malcolm Barrett, Jr., President of the Yavapai County Republicans addressed the Babeu allegations stating, "You wanted to ask me my comments relevant the recent events of Paul Babeu. The Republican Party is an equal opportunity organization. Any duly registered member of the Party has the right to lobby for the support of the balance of the Party. And the Party will elect their leadership. The leadership does not pick winners and losers, the members of the Party will pick that and any Party member with the resources and the ambition to run for that office is entitled to do so."
Affectionately dubbed a "Rock Star" by many in Arizona Republican circles, Babeu is known for his contagious smile, his "up" personality and fiery rhetoric, especially on the subject of illegal immigration. He's been a favorite guest speaker at the Republican Women of Prescott's monthly meeting. After he spoke to their group, they would flock around him asking to have their picture taken him. All that was before Saturday's revelations, who knows how he'll be received now?
Babeu showed a glimmer of that sheen when he got up to speak Saturday night. "So, how is your weekend going?" he asked with a self-depracating grin. Friendly laughter was the response. And the audience liked what he had to say, as he focused mainly on the issues of illegal immigration and the budget, drawing applause on more than one occasion.
Also speaking that night was another CD4 candidate, Ron Gould. Almost ironic in the contrast between the two men, Gould was the sponsor of the Arizona legislation that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. Although Gould did bring up that legislation, he didn't speak directly about Babeu's press conference earlier in the day. The other candidate for CD4, Dr. Paul Gosar, had a previous commitment, but his wife, Maud, spoke in his behalf.
Here are Babeu and Gould discussing the issues and their positions:
Afterwards, Babeu took the time for an interview:
If Babeu and his campaign hoped that by addressing the allegations immediately in a press conference, and refusing to "cut and run" meant the story would die a quick death, he was mistaken.
On Sunday, Congressman Paul Gosar released a statement about the situation, stating,
"As Sheriff Babeu acknowledges, his personal life is certainly his own. He should be judged on his record, which includes demonstrating a severe lack of judgment, and the repeated use of his official position and county resources for personal gain. This is the kind of tawdry behavior that should leave Arizonans wondering if he has the temperament and ethical fitness to represent them in Washington. Babeu's actions show that he is another career politician who considers himself above the law. Americans cannot, and will not support that type of attitude and arrogance in Washington DC any longer."
" Today's statement is in response to Sheriff Babeu's latest abuse and misuse of public trust and resources," Gosar continued. " Babeu chose to hold a campaign press conference to address personal charges against him, and make a declaration about his private life unrelated to his official position, in uniform, surrounded by official and campaign staff at the sheriff's office. A video from this event was promptly featured on Babeu's campaign website and twitter account. Claiming this event was in an official capacity, warranting official resources, would fool no one."
Tuesday, Gould released a statement that read in part,
"Babeu’s decision, as a public official, to send suggestive photos via text and post photos on the internet show a lack of judgment that should cause Babeu to reflect upon whether or not it is appropriate for him continue serving in his current position.
"His decision to not call for a review of his actions to determine whether or not any departmental or county policies were broken is also troubling. I would think that if he truly feels he did nothing wrong, he would welcome such a review to clear his name."
Readers of Prescott eNews seem to agree. In an admittedly unscientific poll which asked, "What do you think about Paul Babeu now?"
- 44% chose "He didn't show good judgment in posting pics,"
- "Who cares?" was the selection of 19% of the respondents.
- "I will vote for Paul Gosar instead," was the answer for 14%
- 11% chose, "He is still the best candidate for CD4."
- 8.3% responded, "I question whether he can be gay and conservative"
- 2.8% answered, "I will vote for Ron Gould instead"
Before the events of this weekend, a previous poll had Babeu with a strong 10% lead over Congressman Paul Gosar.
It didn't take long for political adversaries to call for an investigation into Babeu, but on Monday Babeu's attorney and campaign manager, Chris DeRose, was quoted in AzCentral, "...if the ex-boyfriend, identified only as Jose, believes his allegations against Babeu are credible, he should be the one to take them to law enforcement for investigation. The sheriff, he said, will not...'This is all just silliness,' DeRose said. 'It's not even something we've seriously considered.'"
AzCentral also points out, "Although Babeu claims that he, too, is a victim -- in this case, of identity theft by Jose -- Babeu has also declined to press charges."
But Democrat Pete Rios, who also serves as Chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, and is an outspoken Babeu critic, appeared to be committed to an investigation. Lydia Guzman, Director of Respect Respeto, sent a request to the Department of Justice seeking an investigation into allegations of abuse of power.
By Tuesday afternoon, Tim Gaffney, Director of Communications sent out a press release stating that the Gila County Sheriff (a Democrat) and the Gila County Attorney (a Republican) had agreed to conduct an investigation of Babeu and 'Jose,' his former gay lover. His letter to the Gila County officials read:
"Dear Sheriff Armor and County Attorney Flores,
"I am requesting the assistance of your offices to conduct a joint comprehensive investigation into the recent allegations made publicly against me and my office including possible crimes committed against me personally. I request that your investigation look into allegations of human rights violations, threatening and intimidating, misuse of public resources, theft of property, theft of identity, fraud and impersonation.
"Your immediate attention and assistance with this investigation is requested. I have instructed my Sheriff’s Office and political staff to fully cooperate with your inquiry in an effort to settle these allegations made against me. Respectfully, Paul R. Babeu"
In less than two hours, Gaffney put out a correction,
"Sheriff Babeu had spoken with Sheriff Armer and County Attorney Flores both of Gila County earlier today regarding the investigation he was asking them to complete. Both had stated they would conduct the investigation but after further review, they both told our office they don't have the resources to conduct it at this time. Sheriff Babeu has now spoken with Attorney General Tom Horne who has agreed to take on the independent investigation.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, "Attorney General Tom Horne is the top prosecutor in the state. I feel that he and his staff will conduct this comprehensive investigation into all allegations made against me and my office, as well as possible crimes committed against me."
In the meantime, pundits from all over have offered their perspective and hindsight advice. Highground Public Affairs Consultants offered "Five Things to Learn From Sheriff Babeu's Press Conference Today." The advice, while a bit late to help Babeu, is still a valuable piece of advice for Babeu or anyone in public office, or even considering a run for an elected position.