SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney parted ways with his Arizona campaign co-chairman after allegations of misconduct made by a man with whom the campaign official previously had a relationship.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who is running for Congress in Arizona, resigned from Romney's campaign after the Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly magazine, reported that Babeu had threatened to deport the man, a Mexican immigrant, if he revealed the nature of the relationship.
Babeu held a press conference Saturday and acknowledged he is gay. He denied the allegations of misconduct against him.
"Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him. We support his decision," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.
Babeu, who has risen to national prominence with his strong opposition to illegal immigration, campaigned with Romney and was featured in robocalls in Iowa attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was then seeking the GOP nomination. He said he would continue his congressional campaign in Arizona.
The allegations come as Romney is fighting to win the Feb. 28 primary in Arizona. He is the only candidate who is making a strong play in the state, although rival Rick Santorum and his allies have spent some money on TV ads. The GOP contenders are slated to debate in the state next week.
Babeu's campaign manager, Chris DeRose, said Babeu's congressional campaign was notified Friday afternoon about the allegations and that they immediately consulted the Romney campaign. DeRose said Babeu offered to step down from his role as campaign co-chairman.
"He didn't want this to become a distraction," DeRose said.