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How do Pinal Co. voters feel about Babeu controversy?

A Pinal County voter thinks the controversy surrounding Babeu is 'overblown' but adds that politically, "he's done".

How do Pinal Co. voters feel about Babeu controversy?

CREATED Feb 20, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan
Web Producer: Chuck Meyer

FLORENCE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – Fall-out after coming out: Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s ex-boyfriend spoke out on national television Monday, saying he feared for his business and family.

It’s a story that’s rippling across the country, with Babeu at the center of the firestorm. Over the weekend, the Sheriff was forced to respond to an article in the Phoenix New Times, in which he was accused of threatening to deport a Latino man whom he was involved with romantically. Babeu adamantly denied all the accusations at a news conference Saturday. He also confirmed that he’s gay.

“This is outrageous – that this has been brought up because I’m a conservative Republican and now they think somehow there’s hypocrisy because I’m gay. I’ve never worn it on my sleeve like this is who I am,” Babeu said on CNN Monday afternoon, calling the situation “slanderous.”

But what about the pulse of the community that elected him sheriff? 9 On Your Side hit the streets of Florence to ask voters for their thoughts.

“I don’t believe the story. I think it’s probably overblown. I don’t really think he’d do that. I really believe his standards are higher than that. He wouldn’t abuse the power of his office,” said Ted Behrens, who has lived in Florence for over 50 years.

“I don’t think he’s that type of man. I think someone’s just trying to get him so that he can’t get elected for Congress. He’s been a good sheriff. He’s never done anything wrong,” said Michael Brookhiser.

Although the controversy has been the focus of local and national media, many Florence voters said Babeu’s sexual orientation should not even be a topic of discussion.

“I think Sheriff Babeu is doing a beautiful job. I think his personal life is his own and I don’t think people should judge him at all,” said Phyllis Carter.

However, for the Sheriff, what matters is whether this support will translate into votes, come election time.

“I think the picture on the Internet is going to hang him. I think he’s done. Unfortunately, I think he would’ve done a good job for us in Washington, but I think he’s done,” Behrens said.

Babeu said he wants to be judged on his service such as his deployments abroad and his contributions as a police officer and Sheriff.

U.S. Senator John McCain has expressed his support, saying he deserves to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.