NEW YORK (Reuters) - A tough-on-immigration Arizona sheriff, who resigned as co-chairman of Mitt Romney's campaign in Arizona in February over allegations he threatened a male lover with deportation, announced on Friday he has dropped his bid to run for the U.S. Congress.
Embattled Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu told supporters in a letter posted on his website that he would instead seek re-election as sheriff.
"The most important issues, our performance and results as Sheriff, have brought our Sheriff's Office to prominence and this must continue," the letter said. "No one can argue that our Sheriff's Office isn't better off than four years ago."
Babeu, once considered a rising star in state Republican politics and a strong candidate to win the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in Arizona this year, was due to challenge U.S. Representative Paul Gosar in the August 28 primary.
Babeu said he had hoped the county's chief deputy sheriff, Steve Henry, would run to replace him in order to ensure "continuity of leadership" in the sheriff's office. But Henry decided against running because he would be forced to resign his current post in order to do so, Babeu said.
Henry could not immediately be reached for comment.
In February, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said his office was opening an investigation into Babeu's conduct, specifically "allegations of human rights violations, threatening and intimidating, misuse of public resources, theft of property, theft of identity, fraud and impersonation."
Babeu, who requested an investigation, acknowledged at the time that he is gay and had a personal relationship with his accuser.
But the lawman, a strong critic of the Obama administration's stance on immigration, denied that he or his lawyer threatened to deport his former lover to Mexico if he talked about their relationship.
Babeu first came to statewide prominence in 2010 when he appeared in a campaign ad for U.S. Senator John McCain calling for tough immigration measures.
(Reporting by Edith Honan)