A Tale of Two Openly Gay Sheriffs

In this opinion piece from his The Rare Reporter column, David Webb compares and contrasts Dallas Country Sherriff Lupe Valdez and Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeau.  Each has come under the usual scrutiny that high-ranking law enforcement officials usually experience.  But, while Valdez has been criticized for her lack of oversight of the Dallas County jail system, Babeau has fallen victim to the same type of sex scandals that have become all too common in politics.  Valdez first ran for sheriff in 2004 and scored a triple win; she is the first woman, first Hispanic and first openly gay or lesbian person to hold that position.  A former Border Patrol agent, she dared to challenge Dallas County’s ‘good old boys’ network.  While she didn’t acknowledge her sexuality in 2004, it never really became an issue.  And, no one seemed to mind; in fact, no one seemed to care.  For once – a rarity in Dallas County and anywhere in the nation – the voting electorate actually seemed to focus more on the candidate’s record and what she planned to do in the future.  Her business-minded nature and somewhat subdued personality allowed her reelection in 2008. 

Babeau probably wished he had it so good.  He first ran and won the sheriff’s office in a landslide 2008 victory over his Democratic incumbent, becoming the first Republican to hold the office in Pinal County’s history.  He boasts a 20-year career with the U.S. Army National Guard and has been in law enforcement almost as long.  He’s now running for Congress.  He’s also gay – a fact that never came out during his first run for office and something that doesn’t seem to give much pause to either his colleagues or his constituency.  In other words, as with Valdez, people don’t seem to care about that.  But, Babeau has become enmeshed in a sex scandal; one seemingly related to his career.  An illegal Mexican immigrant, José Orozco, claims Babeau threatened to deport him if he revealed their romantic relationship.  As with many of these situations, it’s often one person’s word against another.  Who’s to say someone didn’t drag Orozco into the open and pay him to make the accusation against Babeau?  Then again, maybe if Babeau hadn’t taken pictures of himself in his underwear and had another picture of him with a hand in Orozco’s unbuttoned shirt, he wouldn’t be in this mess.  But, I just shook my head at the entire fiasco.  It seems our political figures aren’t just expected to be ebullient and jovial 100% of the time; they’re sometimes expected to be asexual.  No one seems to be talking now about Babeau’s record as sheriff, or his commitment to such things as border security.  They just want to see how many salacious photos of him they can find on the Internet.

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