Upstart sheriff rides Arizona law to national fame
FLORENCE, Ariz. _ Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has been on the job less than two years, but he’s already emerging as a leading border security hawk and a rising star in the Republican Party.
Arizona’s controversial crackdown on illegal immigration has created an insatiable appetite for pundits to banter over illegal immigration, and Babeu has helped fill the void. The shiny-headed, 41-year-old sheriff has appeared on cable news shows at least nine times since Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure April 23.
Babeu’s an unlikely authority on illegal immigration _ a “border sheriff” whose territory lies dozens of miles from the border; a lawman with a decades-old political career that began as an 18-year-old city councilman in New England.
But he’s carved a niche as a prolific critic of the federal government.
“Literally the president has shirked his responsibility,” he said. “I’m letting everybody who will care to listen know what is going on here.”
In Babeu’s office, atop a stack of books on a crowded coffee table, sits a memoir by Sarah Palin. Behind his desk is a framed photo of the sheriff with McCain’s former vice presidential nominee.
It’s fitting company for a smooth-talking politician who, like Palin, suddenly skyrocketed to Republican celebrity with a little help from McCain.