- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - The sheriff for metropolitan Phoenix says he won’t enter the Arizona governor’s race, marking the fifth time since 1998 that he has flirted with - and ultimately decided against - seeking the state’s highest elected office.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Thursday that he can’t in good conscience leave his current post and that he has several sensitive matters in progress that require his attention, such as a court case in which his office was found by a federal judge to have racially profiled Latinos in its patrols.

“I am not going to desert this place because of some controversy,” Arpaio said, adding that he wants to defend his deputies against the profiling decision that he vigorously disputes.

The 81-year-old Republican says he will seek a seventh term as sheriff in 2016. Arpaio is known for jailing inmates in canvass tents, dressing them in pink underwear and conducting immigration patrols.

If Arpaio had decided to run for governor, Arizona law would have required him to resign immediately because he isn’t in the final year of his current term.

Arpaio said the resign-to-run law would have required him to leave office next week and would have left county politicians in a position to appoint his successor. “Do you think I’m going to give up this organization to the (county) Board of Supervisors or whoever the politicians want to appoint?” Arpaio asked. “Not going to happen.”

Arpaio didn’t set up a gubernatorial exploration committee or gather any petition signatures that are required to get on the ballot as a candidate for governor.

After Arpaio won a sixth term in 2012, his critics mounted an unsuccessful effort to force a recall election against the sheriff. In the end, recall organizers said they didn’t collect enough voter signatures to bring the lawman to the ballot again.

His latest campaign finance report says the sheriff’s election committee currently has $1.4 million in contributions on hand.

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