Former sheriff Joe Arpaio campaigns in his bid to become the Republican nominee for an open Senate seat in Arizona. (Conor Ralph/Reuters)

Joe Arpaio, the longtime county sheriff seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona on Tuesday, said during a television interview it took him 75 years to find a hero in his life. That person: Donald Trump.

Arpaio, who is on the ballot in a competitive Republican primary, was asked Tuesday morning by MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt if he considers John McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona who died on Saturday, to be a patriot.

“Yes,” Arpaio responded.

“A hero?” Hunt asked.

“That’s hard for me to answer,” Arpaio said. “Because I never had a hero in my life until several months ago when I woke up after 75 years, and I found my hero. You know who that person is? Donald Trump.”

Arpaio, 86, who gained national fame and notoriety for his aggressive pursuit of undocumented immigrants in Maricopa County, was pardoned by Trump a year ago after having emerged as a major campaign supporter during the 2016 election.

Arpaio was convicted in July 2017 of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented.

In the race to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Arpaio is facing two-term Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and a right-wing former lawmaker who lost to McCain in a 2016 primary, Kelli Ward.