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Posts for November, 2012

Babeu wins in Arizona

Timothy Kincaid

November 14th, 2012

Amidst the many wins for our community – marriage, legislators, and even the first openly gay US Senator (no, a certain bachelor from a southern state doesn’t count) – it was difficult to note all the changes and interesting results of the election. And one story which I had been following was overlooked.

Paul Babeu, the openly gay conservative sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, was re-elected. Also elected was Lando Voyles, Babeu’s hand-picked candidate for Pinal County Attorney.

This is an interesting turn of events in that it runs counter to presumptions about rural conservatives and anti-gay attitudes.

Paul Babeu sought to leverage his position as Sheriff into a Congressional seat. But in February, the Phoenix New Times – disliking Babeu’s political positions – ran a story on him which was designed to discredit him with his constituents. Assuming that those who supported Babeu would desert him if they knew he was gay, they ran a story about him threatening a former boyfriend with deportation. To their surprise, Babeu immediately acknowledged his orientation – and endorsed marriage equality and open military service – but fought the accusation of misuse of power.

Over the next month, the Phoenix New Times doubled down on their story, regularly adding sensational tidbits, seeming to hope that Pinal County voters would be turned off by seeing their sheriff in his underwear (provided by the ex-boyfriend) or reading his personal text messages. In the process, they veered into blatant homophobia, calling for Babeu to be fired for joining a gay dating site and ratcheting up the implication, “don’t vote for Babeu, see he’s GAY!!” And Babeu eventually dropped out of his congressional race and ran for reelection as Sheriff.

However, by the end of their effort, it seemed increasingly evident that this was a personal vendetta for the New Times and they lost much of their credibility. Rather than discredit Babeu with his constituents, this may have became a moment when they decided that they preferred openly gay, marriage-supporting conservatives to straights who they believed would be less law-and-order. And so not only did they reelect Babeu, but they confirmed his choice for County Attorney. Which, while odd progress, is progress.

It will be interesting to see how this develops.

When gay Democrats began to gain access and influence a few decades back, it was not always with joyous acclaim; there were period of tolerance in which some more conservative or older Democrats may not have supported our rights but were willing to work with specific gay politicians. They were seen as “our gay politician”, accepted despite long-established prejudices. And slowly, through time and familiarity, “our gay politicians” broke down stereotypes and presumptions. Though I’m no fan of Barney Frank, he was effective in transforming many Democratic leaders from being tolerant of “our gay politician” to support for the gay community.

I think that for many Pinal County Republicans, Paul Babeu might be seen “our gay politician”. They may be unsupportive of our community in general and even dislike “those other liberal gay politicians”, but be able to find ownership of this one. I wonder if Babeu can be effective in gradually breaking stereotypes and engendering support.

A good week for Babeu

Timothy Kincaid

September 1st, 2012

Not only did Paul Babeu win his party’s nomination for reelection, but he has now been cleared of charges made against him by a former boyfriend and a tabloid. (Reuters)

“The Attorney General’s Office will not file charges against either Babeu or Orozco,” Solicitor General Dave Cole said in a statement released on Friday.

“The investigation determined that Babeu did not commit any criminal violations and further concluded that, although Orozco conducted himself in a manner that may constitute a violation of the law, there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction on anything more than a misdemeanor charge.”

Babeu wins sheriff nomination

Timothy Kincaid

August 29th, 2012

Three months ago Paul Babeu dropped out of the race for Congress amidst a bit of a media circus. It went something like this:

The Phoenix New Times ran a story claiming that Babeu, as Sheriff of Pinal County, threatened to have a former boyfriend deported to Mexico if he disclosed their relationship. The paper demanding an investigation. Babeu responded by announcing that he is indeed gay but that the rest of their charges were false.

After a few more stories it became clear that the New Times was under the impression that by outing Babeu they could end his political career and that the boyfriend story was a vehicle to that end.

Especially disconcerting was an article ran by the New Times which consisted, frankly, of homophobic gay baiting. They ran a shirtless picture of Babeu from a dating website (calling it “sexually explicit”) and posted a picture of him in his underwear which was not on the site (provided by his former boyfriend – a man whose identity they and other media sought to shield). They insinuated that membership in a gay dating site should result in his being fired, equating it to porn production.

The New Times also sought quotes from his primary opponents, particularly State Senator Ron Gould, who ran an ad saying that Washington needs “a straight shooter”. They finally lost all credibility (with me, anyway) when they started running “caption that photo” contests with the pictures given to them by Babeu’s ex-beau.

Additional allegations arose about him dating a former student in Massachusetts. And a panel was assigned the task of looking at the whole mess. On May 11, he dropped out of the congressional race. I pretty much thought at that point that the Phoenix New Times had accomplished their goal and that Paul Babeu’s life in politics was over.

But to their surprise – and mine – his very conservative constituents did not denounce him. Instead, many seemed to rally around him and offer support. Rather than give up on public life, Babeu seems to have decided to broker for even stronger power in Pinal County. Choosing to run again for the office of Sheriff, he formed an alliance with a fellow Republican running for county attorney and a few county supervisor candidates.

And it seems that the Republican voters of Pinal County didn’t much care that Babeu is gay, supports marriage equality, and has a hook-up site membership. They overwhelmingly nominated him for reelection, giving him over 60% of the vote against three opponents. His political allies had mixed results, and “straight shooter” Gould lost the primary, so – depending on how the vote goes in November – it appears that Babeu has come out of the situation with increased influence.

The New Times is plenty bitter about Babeu’s win.

Babeu banks on conservative support

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2012

The Washington Blade has interviewed Paul Babeu, recently outed conservative sheriff of Penal County, AZ:

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Paul Babeu, who’s running to represent Arizona’s 4th congressional district in Congress, said his election would be “very impactful and helpful” in changing “the views, perceptions, beliefs about who we are.”

“If they know me first as a sheriff, as a police officer who has responded to, literally, thousands and thousands of emergencies, has fought criminals, has actually saved lives and served our country in the military for 20-plus years … and when regular people see those accomplishments and those results first, then understand at a later point that I am gay, it changes people’s beliefs and perceptions and understanding,” Babeu said.

While this may seem a bit like wishful hoping, it is possible that we are watching a social shifting right before our eyes.

When this story broke, I expected the usual. Babeu would bluster and slink off, Republican leaders would be “hurt by his deception” and the everyone, right and left, would agree that his presumed guilt over the abuse of power allegations was what they found objectionable.

But to my surprise, the revelation about his orientation and accusations of abuse of power did not result in broad rejection from the right. Even with the charge of abuse as a handy cover for homophobia, the Republican Party leadership didn’t jump.

When the Phoenix New Times looked for quotes from those calling for Babeu’s resignation or investigation, they were limited to his primary opponents and pro-immigrant activists. In contrast, on Saturday night, the California Rifle and Pistol Association honored him with their Defender of Freedom Award.

For me, this is a story that is difficult to process. As much as I long for the day in which one’s orientation plays no role in evaluation one’s worth, I do not see that day as here. Like the first poll that reported a majority support for equality, I do not accept one instance as compelling evidence.

But I do think I may be seeing an interesting political development. For some, Paul Babeu may have become an opportunity to jab at The Liberals and take them on at their own issue. For some, this could be seen as an opportunity to, in effect, say, “see, we aren’t homophobic. We aren’t attacking this gay man, you are!”

But for perhaps more, Babeu’s outing has done the unexpected. He may be right. As unlikely as it sounds, Babeu may be changing the minds of his constituents.

At a meeting of the Yavapai Tea Party, the discussion about the sheriff did not play by script. (Arizona Daily Star)

Yet voters, Republican voters in particular, are also asking some questions of themselves, about acceptance and identity and values, about what really matters most to them.

Said Bill Halpin, a 64-year-old ex-Air Force pilot who serves on the local tea party board: “I care less. I just care less. Don’t preach it on me. Don’t push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights.”

Mona Patton, the 60-year-old real estate agent who is the group’s president, put it this way: “I’m a Christian, but who am I to make a judgment about somebody else?

“I still believe in him. I still back him.”

It is impossible to tell at this point to what extent the perception of Paul Babeu as “our guy” will outweigh long-held beliefs about homosexuality. And the answer to that question may never be known.

Because there is another twist to the story. An Arizona ABC affiliate is claiming that a private school for troubled youth that Paul Babeu ran from 1999 to 2001 had abusive correction policies. That’s not the issue; frankly, getting tough with troubled teens is not going to be seen as a negative by Babeu’s constituents.

But sleeping with them will be. And Babue’s sister Lucy is claiming that he had a relationship with a 17 year old student while he was headmaster of The DeSisto School.

This could be the final straw. This could sink his campaign. Even though a 17 year old is above the age of consent in Massachusetts, sex with teenagers – especially those under your supervision – is not acceptable to rural Arizona voters.

But it is still possible that this could be taken differently. If Babeu denies the charge and can reasonably paint his sister as having suspect motivations, there is a remote chance that it may actually help him. If conservative voters see this as an aggressive witch hunt by the Liberal Media, it could position him as a symbol around which to rally.

Regardless of how this all turns out, it is fascinating to watch. I am truly amazed.

UPDATE: AZCapitalTimes has fuller coverage of the Yavapai meeting. It will leave you wondering if this is an anomaly or if while we were busy battling the professional anti-gays, the world shrugged and decided to take a giant step forward.

Legal Uncertainties Increase For Orosco, Babeu

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2012

The Arizona Daily Star looked into the 10-year tourist visa that Jose Orosco holds:

Tucson immigration attorney Mo Goldman explained to me that no 10-year visa would permit a visaholder to stay in the country longer than six months at a time.

A border-crossing card is valid for 10 years but permits a holder to stay in the country only up to 30 days. The holder must remain in the border zone, which does not stretch as far north Phoenix, Goldman said. If the person fills out an I-94 form and is permitted into the country with a 10-year tourist visa, the holder can stay up to six months at a time but then must return to their country of origin. Neither visa permits the holder to work while in the country.

There is a way for a person to extend his stay beyond six months, but even that extension only allows six additional months, Goldman said.

All of this raises some serious questions about whether Orosco is in this country legally. It is also raising questions about whether Babeu, who made a huge splash as an anti-illigal immigration spokesperson, harbored an illegal immigrant:

“I think the sheriff’s got a problem if that’s what was going on. He’s got a big problem,” (immigration attorney David) Leopold said. “If they indicted him and charged him, there might be some meat to it.”

It’s possible that Babeu could say that the subject never came up or that he was fooled by his ex-boyfriend. But even that might be a hard sell, given Babeu’s expertise on immigration matters and his role as an investigator.

Plus, Leopold said, the subject almost always comes up. “Based on my experience with families with people that don’t have documents, it comes up pretty quickly,” he said. “It’s rare that it doesn’t. And especially if you’re involved in an intimate relationship.”

The “staying over” text message

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2012

Presented without commentary

How to take this…

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2012

The Phoenix New Times is running an article about Paul Babeu which, from the perspective of a gay man, I’m not sure exactly how to take. Let me just tell you and you make up your own mind.

In a piece titled “Demands Grow for Full Investigation into Allegations Against Sheriff Paul Babeu”, they move the focus from abuse of power to a discussion of Babeu’s character.

First they quote a primary opponent running as a family values candidate: “Gould said Babeu demonstrated extremely poor judgment by posting explicit photos and information on gay websites, including adam4dam.com.” Then later they speak for themselves:

Babeu dismisses the sexually explicit photos he circulated — including to the gay hookup website adam4adam.com — as none of the public’s business and part of his personal life.

However, the state Code of Ethics for police officers — outlined by the agency that certifies cops in Arizona — declares that “whether on- or off-duty, in uniform or not,” law enforcement officials should conduct themselves in a “manner that will not bring discredit or embarrassment” to their agencies.

Then they make a comparison:

Babeu no doubt is familiar with the case of fellow ex-Chandler Officer Ronald Dible, who was fired for running a porn website with his wife.

The parallel here is that Dible also claimed he could be a law enforcement officer and do whatever he pleased during personal time.

Then they post the “sexually explicit photo” which Babeu “circulated”, it’s him with his shirt off. It’s a “private” photo, which on adam4adam means that it can only be seen by other members of the social media site to whom Babeu unlocks the picture.

Another photo of Babeu in his underwear is published by the paper but this picture appears to be a private photograph that was not posted on the site. It isn’t clear where they got this picture or why it is included.

Like I said, I’m not sure how to take this…

To me it sound like “If you have a gay social media membership and you have a private picture with your shirt off, you bring discredit and embarrassment to your employer, just like a porn producer does.” But others may have a different take on the article.

Panel to investigate Babeu

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2012

According to AZCentral.com, a special panel will investigate whether Sheriff Paul Babeu violated his public trust by threatening to have ex-boyfriend Jose Orozco deported. Interestingly, it is at Babeu’s request.

The local county prosecutor is a political ally of Babeu so rather than conduct an investigation that will be seen as tainted, they are turning instead to the Public Integrity Task Force, a non-partisan committee of neighboring county prosecutors.

In addition, Babeu has requested that the Arizona State Attorney General Tom Horne open a separate investigation into whether he has abused his power. But because Horne and Babeu have also supported each other in the past, the Solicitor General, Dave Cole, will investigate.

That Babeu is requesting investigation may reflect his confidence in the eventual conclusions (or the conclusion makers). Alternately, it may be a step taken to ensure that the investigators not focus solely on Babeu’s behavior to the exclusion of that of Orozco. He requested that the scope include “allegations of human-rights violations, threatening and intimidating, misuse of public resources, theft of property, theft of identity, fraud and impersonation.”

The latter relates to counter-charges made by Babeu’s attorney

Babeu, who said he had a romantic relationship with Orozco that went sour, accused Orozco of taking control of his campaign websites and Twitter account without permission in September and posting unflattering messages.

Chris DeRose, Babeu’s attorney and campaign manager, sent Orozco a cease-and-desist letter vowing to sue if the messages were not removed and the accounts turned back over. Orozco complied, Babeu said, and the matter was dropped.

Don’t be shocked if Republicans support Babeu

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2012

Will conservative Republicans support Sheriff Paul Babeu, now that he is out as a gay man? It’s hard to say.

Some will not. For some, Babeu’s orientation is a deal breaker, a fact that brands him as an enemy, an abomination, and inherently unworthy of public office. But a number of conservatives have already done so and I suspect more will. Some, specifically because he is gay.

Here’s why:

Group identity politics is often born out of discrimination and abuse. Often what establishes commonality, be it as African Americans, as the gay community, or any other minority group, is in reaction to how a group is perceived or treated by others. And often, it is through finding alliance with other groups – a coalition of the mistreated, if you will – that oppressed minorities can find a voice and state their case.

But while this process is empowering, it is also limiting. Because in entering into coalition, one takes on the allies – and the enemies – of those in your coalition. And by tying one’s goals to the goals of another, then each individual is burdened with advancing every goal and convincing every argument.

And even when winning their own argument, it can seem as though one has not. To illustrate my point, let’s look at the relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.

For a time, the Republican Party was the political home of racists who opposed equality and championed bigotry. And accusations of racism were deserved. But the case for judging a person on the content of their character, hard work, and intellect rather than on the color of their skin is powerful and over time many Republicans ceased to care about race.

But they still didn’t vote for black candidates.

Many who observed this saw it as evidence that nothing changed; Republicans are all racists, always have been, always will be. Actually, many times it was evidence of an entirely different phenomenon. African Americans, as a whole, had adopted a set of positions that made it impossible for Republicans to vote for them.

Now there is nothing inherent to the amount of melanin one has which would dictate one’s views on environmental issues, governmental protection for labor unions, tax policy, distribution of wealth and resources, or immigration policy. Even opinions about education quotas, reparation, and non-discrimination policies are not the consequences of genetic determination.

But with few exceptions, black candidates held views on a range of issues which were strongly tied to Democratic goals and with few exceptions, Republicans voted against them. And were called racists for it.

Charges of racism hurt. People don’t want to think that they hate others for no good reason – whether they do or not. And consequently, whenever an opportunity to prove to others (or themselves) that they were not motivated by racial malice, some Republicans jumped at the chance.

This is, I believe, at heart of the adoration that conservatives hold for Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice (though both are far more moderate than their admirers). While they are respected for their contributions, they are adored for being “finally someone black who thinks like I do on issues.” And there really is no better explanation for the rise of Herman Cain (before he imploded) than that Tea Party Republicans could support someone who epitomized their good ol’ boy values and simultaneously prove themselves to not be the bigots that they had been portrayed to be.

Is this tokenism? Yes, in the sense that the candidate is advanced in part due to their race. Surely breaking assumptions about Republicans and race contributed significantly to the selection of George W. Bush’s cabinet. But it is not tokenism in the sense that the candidate was unqualified or would have no power and be merely a puppet. JC Watts rose to the position of House Republican Conference Chair and few suggested that either Powell or Rice were not competent or were merely mouthpieces for others.

I am not trying to suggest that there is not continued discomfort between the Republican Party and African Americans. Party leadership is often unwilling to take the necessary steps to appeal to black voters – or candidates- and sometimes appears hesitant to even consider which views are more consistent with the party’s stated ideals. And at times there seems to be a willingness to pander to those many racists still within the party ranks rather than shame them for the dishonorable nature of their positions.

Eventually, race will cease to be partisan. But that will not be before Republicans are willing to oppose bigotry within their ranks and develop concern about how their policies impact subpopulations nor until African Americans let go of affiliations that position them to be in conflict with that party’s perspectives. It has started (and sadly and ironically is currently being helped by shared anti-gay activism) but it has quite a ways to go.

Which brings me back to Paul Babeu.

The Republican Party is home to many homophobes. There are a good many people in that party who would toss out the window the content of one’s character, hard work, and intellect and base their vote solely on sexual orientation. If Ellen Degeneres’ being a lesbian makes her unqualified to push JC Penny products, then there’s no way they would vote for “one of them.”

But there is a mostly-invisible but quite large segment of the Republican Party who chafe at being called bigot and homophobe and would leap at the opportunity to prove their detractors wrong. They may poll as opposed to marriage equality, but some would still vote for a gay person who shared their views on environmental issues, governmental protection for labor unions, tax policy, distribution of wealth and resources, and immigration policy. And they would so precisely because this person was gay, not despite that fact.

I can’t judge at present just how large that group is. Anti-gays are vocal and visible and also quick to claim to represent far more than they do. And polling seems to be specific issue driven leaving Republican gay support in the very broad range of about 75% on military service to about 25% on marriage.

Additionally, Babeu may not be the guy for “see I don’t hate gays” Republicans to rally around. His district may be so very conservative that those type of Republicans are in short supply. That his accuser is a Mexican immigrant could either hurt him or help him but the accusations of political abuse might make him less palatable than a squeaky clean conservative gay man. On the other hand, having illegal immigrant advocacy groups like Respect-Respeto attack him and being the target of the New Times will only increase his standing among many Republicans in Arizona.

So I don’t really think he’ll win his primary. But I’ll not be too surprised if Paul Babeu does far better than conventional wisdom dictates or if he receives more than a little “I never would have expected it from him” conservative support.

A Question Asked Only Of Gay Guys

Jim Burroway

February 22nd, 2012

When the news about Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu broke over the weekend, the Phoenix News Times ended its story with this item:

Openly gay Tucson state Representative Matt Heinz was one of two Democratic lawmakers who broke ranks with the party in March 2011 and voted to give Babeu $5 million to combat border violence. Other lawmakers opposed the measure, in part, because Babeu’s county is at least 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure finally was pared down to $1.7 million and passed by the Legislature.

About a week after Heinz’s nod to Babeu, the sheriff spent the night at Heinz’s home, text messages that Jose shared with New Times show.

“I’m at Mat Heinz and his boyfriend for dinner & ice cream… we are going out to bar and …. to their house. [Am] staying over,” Babeu texted to Jose at 1:04 a.m. last April 2.

The Village Voice‘s Steven Thrasher took that and ran with it, posing this question on Heinz’s Facebook page:

Rep. Heinz, Steven Thrasher, Village Voice staff writer here. My colleagues at the Phoenix New Times have implied that you and your boyfriend had three-way sex with Sheriff Paul Babeu. Is this true? I am gay and do not think consensual acts of gay sex (or three-way sex) are unethical, wrong, or frankly anyone’s business beyond the parties involved. However, it looks bad for an elected official to have a “sleepover” with a government employee after helping steer $1.7 million in funds their way. As one of just a few openly gay people running for congress at a time of great trial for LGBT Americans, how do you think this looks?

Since when is reporting about an overnight sleepover tantamount to implying thee-way sex? If it is, then somebody’s changed the definition. I don’t recall anyone asking President Obama if he and Michelle had group sex with any of their overnight guests. Maybe democrats get a pass from the lib’ral press.

But wait. I don’t recall President Bush getting the same question about any of their overnight guests either. Not a peep about George, Laura and Sharon Dodson.

And when New York mayor Rudy Giuliani sought refuge in the home of Howard Koppel and Mark Hsiao when his marriage was falling apart, I don’t recall Thrasher asking them whether they had three-way sex either.

So what makes the sleep-over with Babeu, Heinz and Heinz’s boyfriend different? Could it be that all three are gay, and if three gay guys get together, all kinds of freaky sex is guaranteed to break out?

Thrasher excuses his question by saying that he is gay, which just goes to show that not all homophobia is external.

Gay Man Running

A commentary

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2012

Josh Marshall sees a silver lining in the Paul Bebau story:

But one thing shines through to me as perhaps the most significant part of the whole media storm: You have a hard-right Republican, with intense political ambitions outed as gay and accused of serious abuse of office. He vigorously denies the charges but says, Yeah, I’m gay. And by the way, I support gay marriage and I also think that gays should be able to serve openly in the US military.

Given what was contained in the original story, it’s not like Babeu had a great deal of choice about disclosing his sexuality. But then that hasn’t stopped others from trying. No comical denials (a la Larry Craig), no slinking off into a shamed obscurity (a la too many sad stories to mention). Just, yeah, I’m gay. And I’m still running for office.

That’s a rather slim sliver of a lining. Unlike with Craig, there are photos and screengrabs floating around which blocked the option of comical denials. And so we’re left with Babeu’s temperment which keeps him from “slinking off into a shamed obscurity.” That much is worthy of admiration, but it’s more an act of bravado than a calculated assessment of the political landscape he finds himself in now.

There is a reason Babeu didn’t talk about his personal life before. When a man runs for public office in the most conservative parts of a state that ranks as one of the most conservative states in the country, the assumption will be that the Republican candidate who calls himself a staunch conservative would naturally be against any sort of gay equality. And that assumed position would naturally be a very popular one in a conservative district in a conservative state. It’s true that Babeu hadn’t yet raised any of these issues in either his nascent congressional campaign or in his runs for sheriff (where LGBT issues typically don’t come up). But as long as he doesn’t say anything to the contrary, the default position, as Dan Savage put it, is that “Conservative voters will assume he holds anti-gay political beliefs and they will expect him to vote anti-gay should he be elected to office.”

So when a candidate speaks at CPAC — which this year excluded GOProud because their brand of conservatism can no longer countenance openly gay people supporting gay marriage — and calls himself the only true conservative in a three-man GOP primary, then the assumption, without any explanation to the contrary, is that he naturally holds his audience’s definition of conservatism. Particularly where the audience’s definition of conservatism is not at all difficult to ascertain. Until now, Babeu was running with those assumptions and he did nothing to disabuse them.

Until now, and Babeu’s campaign chair put on a brave face and said these revelations won’t “make a bit of difference” with voters in Congressional District 4. The Boston Herald agrees, and is all kinds of excited that Babeu’s candidacy makes him the fourth openly gay or bi candidate running for Congress in Arizona. They attribute it to Arizona’s “deep libertarian roots,” which I guess writers in Boston might find significant, but Arizona’s “libertarian roots” are highly localized, and they just happen to include the two congressional districts the other three candidates (all Democrats) are running in. (Two are vying for Reps. Jim Kolbe and Garbrielle Giffords’ old seat. The other encompasses Tempe, Chandler, ASU and the gayborhood of North Central Phoenix.)

But the Libertarian swath however doesn’t include CD4. The redrawn map for CD 4 (PDF: 1 pages, 2MB) now starts in the heavily Mormon districts of the East Valley and Gila County, wraps around northwestward to deeply conservative Yavapai County before spreading out west to Yuma, La Paz, and Mohave Counties. The central Arizona districts of CD4 are heavily Mormon and Evangelical. The three western counties, culturally and politically, have much more in common Bakersfield and California’s Imperial Valley than they do with any romantic Western libertarian ideals of live-and-let-live. And all of the counties which make up CD4 are very anti-gay. In 2008, those counties collectively approved Prop 102, Arizona’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, with yes vote tallies of about two-thirds verses around one-third against. Something tells me that one-third isn’t made up of very many Republican primary voters.

I’m glad that Babeu’s out and running as a gay Republican who supports marriage equality. I wish he had come out under his own steam and not because he had no other choice. As it is, it’s hard to know whether he would have held these positions anyway or if, like the pre-outing Rep. Jim Kolbe who voted in favor of DOMA, he would have maintained anti-gay stances to protect his political closet. But you have what you have, and he’s probably making the best of the cards that have been dealt him. Unfortunately with the Republican base in central and western Arizona, you also have the voters that you have. And in the game they’re playing Babeu’s playing a dead hand.

AZ Sheriff, Ex-Boyfriend Appear On CNN

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2012

Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Paul Babeu appeared with CNN’s Wolfe Blitzer today for an extensive interivew. In this clip, he says he supports marriage equality as an issue that should be left up to the states. I haven’t been able to find any position he might have taken on Arizona’ Prop 102 in 2008. (Gay rights, it should be noted, is not a topic that comes up very often in sheriff races.)

With his outing over the weekend and this statement to the press, I really have my doubts that Babeu will win his primary. The Congressional seat he’s running for in south-central/western AZ is very, very different from the one Jim Kolbe, the last openly-gay Republican in Congress, held in Southestern Arizona and East Tucson. Kolbe’s seat was a swing seat alongside the border. which, ironically, is not as upset over immigration issues as other districts further away. (In Arizona, it seems the further north you go from the border, the more freaked out people get over immigration, with the notable exception of Flagstaff which is generally pretty easy-going.) The seat Babeu’s running for is much, much more like Imperial Valley in its politics, and frankly I’m not even sure he could win as Sheriff of Pinal County again, at least for the time being.

In the next statement, he denies threatening “Jose” with reporting him to INS.

UPDATE: “Jose” appeared on CNN and stands by his allegations. He also says his immigration status is current and he has a 10-year, US tourist visa that allows him to cross the border. That’s a very common visa for Mexicans living along the border to hold.

AZ Sheriff Outed, Mexican Ex-Boyfriend Says He Threatened Him With Deportation

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2012

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

Jeez, I live in a God-forsaken freakshow of a state.

Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, who made national headlines for his strident anti-immigration stance, threatened his Mexican male lover with deportation when the ex refused to promise never to disclose their long-term relationship. The details were provided in an article published in the Phoenix New Times this week. Today, Babeu acknowledged that he is, in fact, gay, but denied all of the other allegations published in the Phoenix paper.

According to the New Times:

He (Babeu’s ex-lover) says lawyer Chris DeRose demanded he sign an agreement that he would never breathe a word about the affair. But Jose (New Times is withholding his last name because Babeu and his attorney have challenged his legal status) refused.

The 34-year-old from central Mexico charges that the sheriff’s lawyer warned against mentioning the affair with Babeu. DeRose said gossip about Babeu would focus attention on Jose, attention that could result in his deportation, Jose says.

Melissa Weiss-Riner, Jose’s attorney, confirms her client’s account.

She says she spoke directly to the sheriff’s lawyer, DeRose, about the Babeu camp’s threats that Jose could be deported if he “revealed the relationship.” She says DeRose falsely claimed that Jose’s visa had expired.

“Jose came to our firm because he felt he was being intimidated, and he was in fear for his life,” Weiss-Riner says. “He wanted his legal rights protected.”

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

“Jose” says he and Babeu met in 2006 on gay.com. As the relationship grew, Jose created and maintained Babeu’s campaign websites and social media. New Times published text messages and voice mail exchanged between Jose and Babeu in 2011 soon after the relationship soured. The relationship fell apart when Jose found Babeu’s profile on adam4adam.com. Jose created a fake profile posing as “Matt” and soon Babeu began sending him explicit photos and messages. New Times provides the details of those messages and photos here.

In 2010, the Pinal County Sheriff’s office gained national attention when Deputy Louie Puroll claimed that he was ambushed in the desert by Mexican drug runners. Babeu became a regular feature on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, stoking anti-immigrant hysteria that had, by then, led to Arizona’s passage of Senate Bill 1070, the so-called “show me your papers” bill. He also appeared in a commercial with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) demanding that the feds “build the danged fence.” Babeu continued to stand behind his deputy even after the story began falling apart. When Puroll later told a reporter that a drug smuggler threatened to kill the reporter, Babeu fired his deputy because the alleged incident hadn’t been reported to superiors. Just last week, Babeu gave a rabble-rousing speech at the right-wing CPAC conference.

In a news conference today, Babeu admitted that he was gay, and said that he was stepping down as Arizona co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Babeu also admitted to having had a personal relationship with Jose, and also did not deny the text messages or photos that were published in New Times, which include some of the threats he made to Jose.

According to the Arizona Republic, a reporter was meeting with Babeu Friday just as the New Times story went online. With the reporter present, Babeu read the story on his smartphone, “shaking his head as he read. Afterward, his face appeared to strain with emotion.”

Babeu is currently running for Congress against fellow Republicans Rep. Paul Gosar and State Sen. Ron Gould for Arizona’s new 4th Congressional District in central and western Arizona. Pinal County is located between Tucson and Phoenix. Babeu and his DeRose say that they don’t think the story will impact his campaign. Babeu said, “My personal life is exactly that.”

The fallout from this scandal may spread far beyond Babeu and Jose. Openly gay state Rep. Matt Heinz (D-Tucson), who is running to fill the recently-vacated Congressional seat of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was one of just two Democratic lawmakers to vote to give the Pinal County Sheriff’s office $5 million to combat “border violence,” even though Pinal County is more than 70 miles from the border. The legislature later scaled back the appropriation to $1.7 million. A week after Heinz’s vote, the Babeu spent the night at Heinz’s home:

“I’m at Mat Heinz and his boyfriend for dinner & ice cream… we are going out to bar and … to their house. [Am] staying over,” Babeu texted to Jose at 1:04 a.m. last April 2.