Joe Arpaio Makes It Official: Rick Perry's the Sheriff's Horse in GOP Presidential Primary; Hispanic Groups Already Lashing Out at Perry

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio today ended months of speculation about who he'd support in the GOP presidential primary by officially throwing his weight behind Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Arpaio is currently in New Hampshire campaigning with Perry, which is where he gave his official nod. 

"I'm endorsing Rick Perry because we need a tough-on-crime president who will champion and fund full-time border security operations from Brownsville to San Diego," Arpaio says. "Governor Perry has a superior border security record and plan to make our border and our nation safer."

Arpaio's endorsement comes after Perry took heat from his GOP opponents for being soft on illegal immigration after defending his policy of offering the children of undocumented immigrants in Texas in-state tuition fees to attend state universities.

"If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart," Perry said during a GOP debate earlier this year, drawing criticism from far-right-wingers.

Perry has since backed away from his comments, saying they were "inappropriate."

Perry today took his brown-bashing even further, saying he would support a federal program "to detain and to deport every illegal alien that we apprehend (more on that here)"

Sounds a little "heartless" when you consider many of those illegal immigrants were "brought here by no fault of their own."

The sheriff's nod, as we mentioned in prior posts, could come back to bite Perry in the butt in the general election, where -- unlike the primary -- the vast majority of voters aren't far-right-wing border hawks.

Hispanic groups will also likely give Perry the cold shoulder in the general election. For example, the Arizona-based Tequila Party -- a non-partisan Hispanic group -- is already expressing its disgust with Perry for accepting Arpaio's endorsement.

"In 2008, Mitt Romney Presidential campaign was endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and [he] was later made the Arizona State Chair for his campaign," Tequila Party founder DeeDee Blase tells New Times. "Today, we see Rick Perry receiving the endorsement of Joe Arpaio. We believe Rick Perry raced for Arpaio's endorsement to make up for his compassionate DREAM Act history as he took harsh Republican political arrows for his compassion for our DREAMers. Out of all the Republican candidates we have heard so far this year, it appears that 2012 Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich is on the right path."

Gingrich is one of the few GOP presidential candidates who didn't seek Arpaio's endorsement -- aside from Perry, other GOPers who smooched Arpaio's rump hoping to gain his support include Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain (who's currently dealing with his own bag of issues), each of whom came to the Valley to court the sheriff. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- who Arpaio supported in the 2008 presidential campaign -- also tried to win Arpaio's nod.

We've asked the sheriff's office if we could speak with Arpaio about what made Perry standout amongst his opponents. We'll let you know if we hear back.

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James King
Contact: James King