Editor’s note: This post has been updated.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is stepping down as co-chairman of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s (R) Arizona campaign in the wake of allegations that he threatened to deport a former lover who declined to stay silent about their years-long relationship.
“Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. “We support his decision.”
Babeu has denied any wrongdoing. And, on Saturday, he confirmed that he is gay, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m here to say that all the allegations. . .were untrue — except for the instance that refers to me as gay,” Babeu said in a news conference, according to the Associated Press. “That’s the truth — I am gay.”
News of Babeu’s move was first reported by the Arizona Republic.
Babeu, a national GOP rising star who is running against Rep. Paul Gosar (R) in Arizona’s newly created 4th District, is known for his hard-line position on illegal immigration. He endorsed Romney in October, saying in a statement that the presidential candidate “has shown that he is the most committed to securing the border.” Babeu has stumped for Romney in recent months.
The Phoenix New Times reported earlier this week that a man who claims to be Babeu’s former boyfriend says Babeu threatened him with deportation when he would not agree to stay silent about their relationship. Babeu has denied the allegations.