PHOENIX (CN) – Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff recently pardoned by President Donald Trump following a federal criminal contempt conviction, announced Tuesday that he plans to run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona.
Arpaio, a Republican, is running for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, who said in October he would not seek reelection after a number of high-profile arguments with Trump left him disillusioned with the direction of the Republican Party and with declining popularity in his home state.
The former Maricopa County lawman made his announcement via Twitter.
“I am running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again,” Arpaio tweeted. The tweet linked to an interview he gave with the conservative publication The Washington Examiner further detailing the announcement.
Arpaio told the publication he has a lot to offer as a candidate.
“I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted,” Arpaio said. “But I would not be doing this if I thought that I could not win. I’m not here to get my name in the paper, I get that every day, anyway.”
The 85-year-old served for 24 years as Maricopa County sheriff, but lost his re-election bid in 2016 after years of legal battles depleted his popularity and cost county taxpayers around $70 million.
Arpaio gained popularity across the state and the nation for his outspoken views against undocumented immigrants, and for jail tactics that some called abuse, such as requiring all Maricopa County Jail inmates to wear pink underwear.
He was convicted last year of criminal contempt for defying a federal judge’s order to stop performing immigration patrols. That order came as part of a racial profiling class action filed against Arpaio, claiming his officers used race to target Latino residents during patrols.
Trump pardoned the former lawman in August, calling Arpaio a “worthy candidate” for his first presidential pardon. Arpaio made regular appearances on the campaign trail with then-nominee Trump, and was thrown around as a possible candidate to lead the Department of Homeland Security following Trump’s election.
Arpaio will face stiff competition from current Republican frontrunner Kelli Ward, a former state senator from western Arizona who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. John McCain in the 2016 primary.
Ward has been controversial in her own right, calling on McCain to retire last year after he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Also expected to announce her candidacy this week is Rep. Martha McSally.
McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first American woman to fly in combat, represents Arizona’s Congressional District 2 spanning southeastern Arizona, including most of Tucson.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, is expected to offer a strong challenge to turn the seat blue. Sinema, a centrist, is a member of the congressional Blue Dog Coalition and serves a swath of Arizona that includes Phoenix and neighboring Scottsdale and Tempe.
Arizona’s primary will be held on Aug. 28.