Arpaio's Not Mounting a Challenge to Flake. But He's Not Ruling It out, Either

Image: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the Republican National Convention in 2016
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio waves after speaking during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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By Vaughn Hillyard

WASHINGTON — Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, newly pardoned by President Donald Trump, left the door open Monday to running against Sen. Jeff Flake in next year's Arizona GOP primary.

“I haven’t made any decision to run for office or what office,” Arpaio told NBC News.

When asked if he’d launch a campaign against Flake if Trump asked, Arpaio said he would “have to consider it," but noted that he didn't think the president would make that call.

“That’s a tough one to ask because I said I’ll do anything to help the president,” Arpaio said. “That’s the respect I have for him.”

Trump has promoted the idea of backing a primary challenger to Flake, who released a book last month lampooning Trump’s rise within the Republican Party.

The 85-year-old former Maricopa County sheriff, meanwhile, has a long history of flirting with runs for higher office. He floated the idea of potential bids for Arizona governor in 2014 and 2010 and opened up the prospect of a run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. In an interview with the Washington Examiner Monday, Arpaio said, "I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate."

“It’s a different scenario now because I’m not the sheriff,” he told NBC News. “I didn’t want to leave the sheriff’s office, so now it opens up a lot of different avenues.”

Arpaio said he had not spoken to Trump in the weeks leading up to the pardon, and he hasn't spoken to him since the White House’s announcement on Friday night. He also indicated that he was disappointed by how the current senators from Arizona, Flake and John McCain, have responded to his legal troubles.

Arpaio said neither senator reached out to him after a federal judge found him guilty of criminal contempt last month.

"Why didn’t these guys call me — they’re in my backyard — to say, 'What’s the real story, sheriff? Maybe we can help you?' Nobody’s called me,'" Arpaio said.