Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Tells FOX News Why Mitt Romney Picked Him for Presidential Campaign
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
By Sara Bonisteel
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann.
A controversial Arizona sheriff known for making his inmates wear pink underwear and eat green bologna turned his back on his state's favored presidential candidate, opting instead to join forces with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The Romney camp appointed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Monday as honorary chair of the campaign in the state of Arizona.
"The first time I met the governor at a private meeting, first thing he said was 'How's the pink underwear doing?'" Arpaio told FOXNews.com Wednesday.
Romney asked Arpaio to join his campaign in early January after several meetings, said Arpaio, who has made his name with a tough stance on immigration in the nation's fourth largest county.
"I like him," Arpaio said. "He's a man of principle, of good character. He did a great job in Massachusetts and I feel he's going to make a great president."
The sheriff, who was born and raised in Massachusetts, says his role in the campaign will include touting the Republican candidate in speeches throughout the state, and possibly the nation, where the tough-talking sheriff will stress Romney's ethics, his family life and his business acumen as reasons to vote him into office.
But Arpaio's decision to support the former Massachusetts governor begs the question as to why he decided to shirk the hometown candidate, Sen. John McCain. Arpaio refused to answer that question directly, choosing instead to allude to the Vietnam War hero.
"Arizona's important, maybe psychologically and politically because you have a fella here from Arizona running for president," Arpaio said. "And I guess, the hometown boy or the favorite son, they always seem to win; however don't forget, was it Gore that lost his own state in Tennessee?
"So I feel Mr. Romney has a great chance to win Arizona regardless of what polls and everybody else said," he said.
He called former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also running for president, a "nice guy."
Maricopa County's sheriff made headlines last year for his controversial application of an anti-smuggling law that allowed him to jail illegal immigrants for smuggling themselves into the U.S. Inmates in the county, which includes Phoenix, are housed in a tent city where they are forced to wear pink underwear and eat green bologna.
"I'm sure the governor believes in my philosophy too," Arpaio said. "He sure would not be asking for my endorsement if he didn't believe in what I'm doing."
But Romney will have to win office before he'll get a chance to tour the tents. Four losing presidential contenders — Sens. Bob Dole, McCain, Phil Gramm and Gov. Pete Wilson — have toured the facility. Arpaio doesn't want to jinx Romney into being the fifth.
The Romney 2008 campaign also named Arizona political consultant Jason Rose as the state director of Romney's Republican bid for office.
"Each has many years of experience in Arizona politics and will help us mobilize our already robust network of grassroots support," said Romney in a statement. "They will be strong surrogates for our optimistic message of a stronger and safer America."