PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 31: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a Trump campaign rally on August 31, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sets his sights on our nation's capitol. Arpaio announced he's running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Jeff Flake.
In a tweet, he stated he is seeking the post to support President Donald Trump's agenda "in his mission to Make America Great Again."
The 85-year-old Arpaio is a Republican and close ally of President Trump. Back in November, Flake announced he would not run for re-election, leaving an open Senate seat.
FOX 10's John Hook talked to Arpaio about his decision to run.
"I love this state, the people in this state, so I think I can give something back. When you evaluate my resume, which nobody wants to talk about, I didn't just drop out of an airplane to be the controversial sheriff for 24 years," he said.
Arpaio was spared a possible jail sentence last year when President Trump pardoned his conviction for disobeying a judge's order in an immigration case. He also went to court to have his conviction permanently erased from his record.
Hook asked Arpaio if the battle to clear his name was in preparation for the Senate run.
"So no, it had nothing to do with it. In fact people will say why are you stupid enough to run with that, I don't care.. I did nothing wrong and our president knew that when he pardoned me."
The former sheriff was also asked if this run is more about his ego -- that he's missed being in the spotlight.
"What ego? You guys forgot me the day I left office anyway. You thought. You thought but that didn't bother me at all.. you think when I leave the Senate people will remember. Let's see how long they remember Flake, how long they remember governors, they all leave. I didn't do it to be known. Come on. Everybody knows me in this country anyway. I sure don't have to run for office to be known."
Arpaio flirted five times with running for Arizona Governor, but decided against it. Many also dismissed talk that he might run for U.S. Senate. This isn't a stunt. His campaign manager says they filed the paperwork with the U.S. Senate on January 9th.
Up until now, the potential general election match-up was likely between two main contenders: Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Kelli Ward. Sinema announced back in September that she would run for the Senate seat. She'll run against community activist Deedra Abboud in the Democratic primary. Republican Representative Martha McSally has reportedly told colleagues she plans to run and has scheduled "special announcement" events in Tucson, Phoenix and Prescott on January 12th.
The Democratic National Committee released a statement:
"Joe Arpaio is one of our nation's most notorious agents of racism and bigotry. He has spent his career tearing apart immigrant families and devastating Latino communities, and he has no place in the U.S. Senate. That's why Arizona voters kicked him out of office in November. Democrats will fight tooth and nail to make sure Joe Arpaio never holds public office again."
Reaction to Arpaio's announcement:
"The world is shocked, the world is shocked, the state of Arizona is shocked."
It certainly wasn't something political veteran Stan Barnes saw coming, nor many in the Arizona political world. With the former sheriff throwing his name in the U.S. Senate race, it could be bad news for other GOP candidates, namely Kelli Ward and Congresswoman Martha McSally.
"It's bad news because Joe Arpaio has two things that every single politician would like to have and one is 100 percent name ID, the other is all the money he could possibly spend," said Barnes.
McSally hasn't officially declared yet and at one point, Ward was the only one running.
"If you're Kelli Ward today, you must think the political Gods are against you, because once upon a time, you were set to win the primary and Jeff Flake withdrew, then you were set to win because no one else was getting in, and now practically Donald Trump himself has gotten in the race," said Barnes.
Democrats say they're not worried if Arpaio ends up getting the nod heading towards November.
"When Arpaio is added on to it, this guy's notorious for being a convicted felon, racially profiling against Hispanic Arizonans, it will drive up turnout within our base for the fall," said Drew Sanderson of the AZ Democratic party.