AUSTIN, Texas - In a move to reassure conservatives who think he's soft on illegal immigration, Gov. Rick Perry announced Friday that controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will chair his campaign in Arizona.
Although admired by conservatives for his get-tough approach to controlling illegal immigration in his Southern Arizona county, Arpaio is facing allegations by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division on a wide range of issues, including claims of practicing a pattern of racial profiling and discrimination and carrying out heavy-handed immigration patrols based on racially charged citizen complaints.
Arpaio endorsed Perry in the Republican primary before the federal investigation surfaced, and he campaigned for Perry in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Since the Justice Department probe came to light, Perry has defended Arpaio, telling Fox News in December that "these people are out after Sheriff Joe." The sheriff's support is meant in part to bolster Perry's record as tough on immigration. He has taken heat from conservatives for a Texas law he signed granting in-state college tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.
Also on Friday, Perry filed the required documents to get on GOP primary ballots in Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
"As my campaign for president moves forward, our superior organization and resources allow me to compete nationwide, where I'm confident our unmatched jobs record, conservative fiscal and social policies, and status as the only Washington outsider can win over Republican voters," Perry said in a statement.
Perry's campaign suffered a setback when he failed to submit the required number of signatures on to get on ballot for the Virginia primary. Perry has sued the state to get his name added.