Local Republican Party organizers Brenda and Marty Hermanson said Sheriff Paul Babeu’s announcement Saturday he is gay does not change their support for the sheriff in his bid for the U.S. Congress, and the accusation he threatened to have his alleged ex-boyfriend, a Mexican immigrant, deported if he disclosed the nature of their relationship is false.
If the accusation proves true, though, said Henry Wade, a Democrat running for the newly formed District 4 county supervisor seat, then it “flies in the face” of what Babeu stands for on immigration.
Wade is the organizer of the Copa City Democrats, while Brenda Hermanson is the president of the Maricopa Republican Club and her husband, Marty, is a vice chairman of Babeu’s campaign for U.S. Congress in District 4.
Elected in 2008 as Pinal County’s first Republican sheriff, Babeu has risen to national status within party ranks for his iron-fist stance on illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Last year, he was named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Brenda Hermanson said Babeu’s sexual orientation should not be an issue in his run for Congress.
“Everything else is false,” Hermanson said of the claims by a man only known as Jose published in a story Friday on the Phoenix New Times website. “We stand by him 100 percent. He is a man with integrity, morals and values, and his sexual orientation does not change our respect for him.”
Marty Hermanson, who said he helped with Babeu’s campaign for sheriff in 2007, agreed.
“I have known Paul for quite a few years and we absolutely support him,” he said.
The New Times story forced Babeu to announce Saturday at a press conference in Florence he was gay while vehemently denying he or his attorney had ever threatened Jose, who worked on Babeu’s social media websites. Babeu also announced he would step down as co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s Arizona presidential campaign.
Babeu’s press conference quickly made headlines across the nation, and, on Sunday morning, was the No. 2 story on National Public Radio after a story about pop star Whitney Houston’s funeral in Newark, N.J.Wade said people have known for some time that Babeu is gay and a person’s sexual orientation is a private issue.
“But the fact that the gentleman he was having a relationship with may have issues with his immigration status flies in the face for what he stands for,” Wade said.
Wade said as a law enforcement officer Babeu is sworn to uphold the law and has built his career on a strong immigration policy.
Mayor Anthony Smith said he is waiting to find out more before commenting on the sheriff's integrity as a law enforcment officer.
"Normally, these things take a while before all facts come out, and to give an opinion at this point would be premature," he said.
Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesman Elias Johnson said Babeu said everything he wants to say at this point during Saturday’s press conference.
“He'll be talking in the future,” Johnson said in an email.