In the course of interviewing politicos in Massachusetts about Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's career there, I heard an interesting story that must tell us something about the newly prominent sheriff, whom I wrote about Sunday.
In 1997, Babeu ran for the mayor of his hometown, North Adams, Mass., against longtime incumbent Democrat John Barrett III. One of the people who endorsed Barrett over Babeu was then-state senator Jane Swift, a Republican who also hails from North Adams and was a high school friend of one or two of Babeu's 10 siblings.
This was a bit of a slap for Babeu, in that the fraternity of Berkshire County Republicans is small, yet Swift endorsed the Democrat.
Barrett "had endorsed me, so it was a loyalty issue," Swift told me this month.
Here's how an article from the Springfield (Mass.) Union-News described it, quoting then-State Treasurer Joe Malone:
"Swift backed Barrett just days before the North Adams election, and 'put the sword into Paul Babeu,' he said."
Babeu had won more votes than Barrett in the open primary for mayor and appeared to be headed for victory, but Barrett won the general election 53-47 percent.
Barrett told me in an interview that Babeu "was well-financed, he was very slick, and at that time he probably ran one of the best campaigns. He had been well-trained by the Republican organization. He just went out and really just wanted to win."
Now Malone, it turns out, had taken Babeu under his wing already. In fact, he took a Babeu under each wing: Paul, who was a deputy chief of staff, and his younger brother Shaun eached worked for Malone. (Now Shaun is running for justice of the peace in Pinal County).
In 1998, Babeu, was field director in state treasurer Malone's campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. This was an interesting campaign because the state's governor at the time was Paul Celluci, also a Republican, and Malone was challenging him from the right.
Most poignantly, Cellucci's running-mate for the lieutenant governor slot was Swift. For many Republicans, Swift's endorsement of Barrett, rather than Babeu, was a sign of their disloyalty to fellow Republicans, but it was also a simple sign of the traditional moderate-conservative divide in the party.
"I’m definitely a moderate," Swift told me. "He’s more conservative than I am."
Cellucci and Swift won the Republicans nominations and become governor and lieutenant governor. Swift became acting governor of Massachusetts in 2001, when Cellucci left office to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada. She famously gave birth to twin daughters shortly after taking office.
Swift did not run for the Republican nomination in 2002 and was pushed aside by the state's newest Republican high-flyer: Mitt Romney.
As a coda, here's the latest Massachusetts electoral news, at least according to John Barrett. He was running for re-election last year when Paul Babeu, living and working as sheriff in Arizona, intervened with emails, Facebook postings and other work for Barrett's challenger, Richard Alcombright.
"He rallied his friends to go against me. After 26 years they got me," Barrett said.
Finally, a point on Sunday's story: I asked many Republicans to comment about Babeu, but few of them would. A campaign staffer for Joe Malone, who is running for Congress this year, never followed through on a promise for an interview. Neither did Arizona Republican Chairman Randy Pullen. And Sen. McCain's campaign didn't bother to tell me why they chose Babeu for their "complete-the-danged-fence" ad.