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America's most famous outspoken sheriff has not yet signaled whether he intends to pursue higher office, but a new poll suggests that Arizona Republicans aren't opposed to sending Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to Washington in 2012.

On the same day Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced his intent to run to fill outgoing Sen. John Kyl's seat, a new poll from Summit Consulting Group shows Arpaio with a narrow lead over Flake. In a poll of potential GOP contenders, Arpaio attracts an impressive 21 percent, followed by Flake in second with 16.8 percent. Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth who lost a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain last year took third with 16.6 percent.

Arpaio has made national headlines recently for his tough stance on crime and illegal immigration. It's unclear how much interest he might have in running for Senate versus running for re-election as sheriff, but he is being urged by his supporters to pursue the Senate seat, an Arizona GOP strategist told Roll Call on Monday.

Arpaio would likely also enjoy fundraising advantage thanks to his national notoriety.

On Monday, Arpaio hinted that he was open to the possibility of running for Senate. The deciding factor is neither the money, which Arpaio predicted he could raise, nor his ability to do the job. Instead, Arpaio said it's whether he'd be willing to leave his post as sheriff.

"The issue is whether I want to leave this office and go to Washington and try to make a difference there, which I would do if I run and win," Arpaio said, noting it's a bit too early to make a final decision. "The door is open right now but, as I said, I'm campaigning for sheriff and raising that money."

“I think I could do that job," he said, referring to the duties of a U.S. Senator.

When polling without Arpaio's name in the mix, Flake comes out on top with 22 percent, followed by Hayworth at 20 and former Rep. John Shadegg with 17 percent.

Bottom line: the race to replace Sen. Kyl has a wide-open GOP field.

One last thing…
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