Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu speaks at a news conference in Florence,… (Deirdre Hamill/ AP/The…)
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Monday afternoon that he's pressing forward with his campaign for Congress in Arizona, and that his sexuality should not be an issue for Republican voters.
Babeu called a news conference Saturday to deny a Phoenix New Times report that he had threatened to deport a supposed ex-lover, a Mexican national, if he did not agree to keep their relationship a secret. He acknowledged, though, that he had a "personal relationship" with a man identified only as Jose, and he came out as gay.
In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, Babeu suggested that his political rivals were behind the story coming to light.
"I've never defined myself by anything other than my service, and my duty, and what we should all be judged on in life," he said. "We've all had relationships, as is clear as day now -- now this is national news -- that I have had one where he wanted to harm me. And now this is rolled out, and the timing of this is more than a coincidence."
Babeu said the man had been a volunteer for his campaign for sheriff, launching its website and Twitter feed. He later posted "very negative things" under Babeu's name to the accounts, which led to him taking legal action.
"There were several crimes committed here against me and my campaign," Babeu said. "All I wanted done is for this to stop."
It was a stunning turn of events for the rising GOP star, who was running a strong campaign for Congress against incumbent and fellow Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.
Babeu attended the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, where he blasted the Obama administration for challenging Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law and sought support for his campaign against the man he called "the most liberal Republican member of Congress."
"This is a fight to define the Republican Party," he said at one event there. "If you want to punish a congressman, a Republican congressman who looks more like a Democrat in supporting Barack Obama, then I ask you to be involved in this District 4 race."
Babeu had served until this weekend as co-chairman of Mitt Romney's campaign in Arizona. He said he stepped down on his own and was not pressured by the campaign.
"The Romney campaign, and I don't think anybody, should have a problem with my personal life and who I am," he said.
In his own race, Babeu said he would stand on his record and continue pressing the issues of fiscal responsibility an border security.
"Our party is the big tent as Ronald Reagan talked about, the party of Lincoln, of equality," he said. "This is not something that I believe in this day and age should by itself defeat or elect any candidate, even in this Republican Party.
"I've got a record of service. people know me. I want to be judged, as every American should be, on results."
He said he supported the right of gays to serve in the armed forces, and he also broke from many in his party on the issue of gay marriage.
"This is where I go Ron Paul on people," he said. "This is where it falls to the states."