Republicans have four convicted criminals running for congress in 2018

WASHINGTON ―  When Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff, announced his Senate candidacy on Tuesday, he became the fourth viable Republican 2018 congressional candidate who’s been convicted of a crime. And like two of the other GOP cons running for office, he has cited his criminal record as a partial justification for his candidacy.

Arpaio was convicted of misdemeanor criminal contempt of court in July 2017 for defying a court order requiring him to stop illegally detaining people he suspected of being undocumented immigrants based on their race. He was pardoned by President Donald Trump one month later.

RELATED: People who might run against Trump in 2020

44 PHOTOS
People who might run against Trump in 2020
See Gallery
People who might run against Trump in 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

(Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sen. Kamala Davis (D-Calif.)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg

(Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (D)

(Photo by: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

(Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

(Photo credit MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

(Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

(Photo credit ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

(Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Environmental activist Tom Steyer

(Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

(Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton 

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

(Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

(Photo credit FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Former first lady Michelle Obama

(Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

(Photo credit should read JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

(Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

(Photo credit TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Gov. Jerry Brown

(Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Caruso )

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey

(Photo by Moeletsi Mabe/Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Former Vice President Al Gore

(Photo credit DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

(Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images,)

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The other convicted criminals running for office as Republicans are Don Blankenship, the former head of the coal mining company Massey Energy who is running in the Republican primary to challenge West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D); former Rep. Michael Grimm, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to reclaim the Staten Island congressional seat he once held; and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), who is running for re-election.

Blankenship served one year in prison for a misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to evade safety laws after the death of 29 miners at his Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010. Grimm, a former FBI agent, pleaded guilty to of felony tax evasion in 2014. And last year, Gianforte also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for body-slamming a reporter days before winning a 2017 special election. So far, the national Republican party has said it supports Donovan over Grimm, but it is also backing Gianforte, who is the only one of these convicted candidates currently in office. The party has not endorsed anyone in either West Virginia or Arizona.

The only Democrat with a record running for office is David Alcorn, convicted of stalking, who is one of nine candidates for the party’s nomination in New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district. The Democratic Congressional Committee would not support Alcorn, saying “he is not fit to run for office.”

The “Politically Incorrect Prisoners” Brand

Three of these men — Arpaio, Blankenship, and Grimm — have suggested that their convictions show they were persecuted by the Obama administration for their political beliefs. The actual evidence suggests otherwise.

Blankenship referred to himself as a “political prisoner” of the Obama administration as is seeking to rehabilitate his image through a electoral run. Grimm claims that he was a victim with “the entire Obama Justice Department weaponized against me.” And Arpaio called his conviction for refusing to follow lawful court order a “political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department.” At a rally in Phoenix before Trump issued his pardon, the president asked the pro-Arpaio crowd, “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?”

RELATED: Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey together

10 PHOTOS
Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey together
See Gallery
Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey together
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - JANUARY 22: Businessman Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey ringside at Tyson vs Holmes Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey January 22 1988. (Photo by Jeffrey Asher/ Getty Images)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump (C) chatting w. talk show host/actress, Oprah Winfrey as pro-football player Herschel Walker (R) looks on at Tyson/Spinks pre-fight party at the Trump Plaza hotel. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - JUNE 27: Businessman Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey ringside at Tyson vs Spinks Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey June 27 1988. (Photo by Jeffrey Asher/ Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - JUNE 27: Actress and TV Star Oprah Winfrey and Ivana Trump at Tyson vs Spinks boxing match at Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey June 27 1988. (Photo by Jeffrey Asher/ Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 08: Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump attending party after Tyson-Spinks fight (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 08: Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump attending party after Tyson-Spinks fight (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 01: Orpah Winfrey, Donald Trump (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 01: Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
entrepreneur Donald Trump, fashion designer Valentino and television personality Oprah Winfrey. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - JANUARY 22: Businessman Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey at Tyson vs Holmes Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey January 22 1988. (Photo by Jeffrey Asher/ Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

It’s not uncommon to see politicians attempt to spin investigations into them or convictions as some kind of attack on their politics or identity. But there is a certain type of Republican political candidate whose campaign rationale is directly wrapped up in their criminal or rule-breaking identity. These candidates can claim, whether in truth or not, that they have been personally persecuted by the liberal establishment for either trying to run a business or for defending the American people.

The trailblazer for this type of candidacy was Oliver North, the National Security Council staffer under President Ronald Reagan who shot to conservative stardom after his defiant congressional testimony about how he helped illegally fund the right-wing Contras militias in Nicaragua by selling arms to Iran. North was convicted of three felonies for his part in the scandal, although the convictions would later be vacated after an appeals court found that his immunized congressional testimony was improperly used in his criminal trial. He captured the Republican Party nomination for a Virginia Senate seat in 1994 off of his fame during the Iran-Contra affair.

And although former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore was never convicted or charged with any crime, his political star rose after he was kicked out of his judicial seat twice. He was first removed from office in 2003 for refusing to comply with an order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from state courthouse property. Then in 2016 he was kicked off of the state court for refusing to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage. These actions, which he and his supporters perceived as anti-Christian persecution, made him a star among a large enough group of conservatives in the state to win the Republican nomination for Senate in a 2017 special election.

RELATED: Republican senators who were on the fence about the GOP tax bill

8 PHOTOS
Republican senators who were on the fence about the GOP tax bill
See Gallery
Republican senators who were on the fence about the GOP tax bill

Ron Johnson of Wisconsin

Susan Collins of Maine

Jeff Flake of Arizona

John McCain of Arizona

Bob Corker of Tennessee

Steve Daines of Montana

James Lankford of Oklahoma

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Among the current crop of convicted criminal candidates claiming political persecution, Arpaio stands out as the one with the most convincing appeal to right-wing Republican voters. Many of these voters agree with Trump that Arpaio was convicted for just doing his job. While the Arpaio pardon has polled poorly overall, strong supporters of Trump back it. A national poll by YouGov found that 61 percent of strong Trump supporters approved of the Arpaio pardon. A poll of Arizona residents by OH Predictive Insights found 50 percent of respondents opposed to the pardon, but did not release data based on partisan affiliation or presidential approval. Republican politicians in Arizona including Gov. Doug Ducey and Rep. Andy Biggs praised Trump for pardoning Arpaio. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who Arpaio is running to replace, however, said he wished Trump had not pardoned the ex-sheriff.

Like Ollie North, Arpaio was just trying to protect Americans, in the eyes of this block of voters. They support his lawless brand of law enforcement. Like Roy Moore, Arpaio’s crime was being politically incorrect. The crime and the conviction fit his brand. A poll released Tuesday night found Arpaio jumping to a statistical tie for first place in the Republican primary.

However, Arpaio lost his 2016 re-election campaign in Maricopa County by 11 points even as Trump narrowly won the county in the presidential election. North and Moore also lost in their general election races. It appears general election voters don’t tend to care much for the persecution narrative branding. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Read Full Story