Feb 22, 2012
This has been a story made for cable news, but of less interest to print media -- outside of Phoenix New Times, which broke the story in the first place. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was thrust out of the closet after a relationship went sour. His ex, a Mexican immigrant named Jose Orozco, suspected that Babeu was trolling the internet for sex, and stung him by arranging a rendez-vous under a fake identity on line.
(Originally, I wasn't going to include the boyfriend's name in this cartoon, but decided that the name Jose helped clarify that I wasn't trying to gloss over his being, say, Swedish. In the last couple days, however, Orozco's full name and photo have been made public on line and on television, so I will not keep referring to him as "the boyfriend" here. I should also explain that I use the word "illegal" in the cartoon instead of "undocumented" on the assumption that Babeu would favor such terminology.)
Babeu has denied the accusation that he threatened to expose that Orozco was in the U.S. illegally if he ever went public with their relationship. Babeu has, however, come out of the closet as a gay man as a result of the story, which he says is a relief to him.
We'll have to see how this affects his candidacy to represent Arizona's fourth district in Congress. He may be hurt less for the revelation that he's gay (this was once Jim Kolbe's district, after all) than by the incongruity of his relationship with Jose with his record as a hardliner against illegal immigration. Babeu first came to national attention four years ago as the sheriff walking beside John McCain in the "Build the Dang Fence" ad:
It isn't just the sexual relationship that conflicts with Babeu's record on immigration: he also employed Orozco to create and maintain his internet presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). If you need a moment to let that sink in, here it is again: the guy who went on national TV to decry undocumented immigrants in this country was simultaneously employing a guy he knew to be an undocumented immigrant to work for him.
Giving Orozco that job may have been what ultimately came back to bite Babeu in the ass: Orozco became suspicious of Babeu once he found the sheriff's accounts on gay dating sites Adam4Adam and Chino Valley E-news.
Buried deep in the New Times story is a development that may embarrass openly gay Democratic congressional candidate Matt Heinz. After Heinz broke with his party in the Arizona legislature to vote to allocate $5 million to combat border violence in Pinal County -- which is 70 miles away from the Mexican border -- one of Babeu's text messages that Orozco released reports that Babeu planned to spend the night with Heinz and his partner. (Note: The allocation was reduced to $1.7 million in the final bill.) Perhaps after a night of clubbing with the Heinzes, Babeu was simply being prudent by not driving home; but the implication of something further could doom both of their campaigns to succeed Gabby Giffords in Congress.