By Todd Beamon | Monday, 05 Oct 2015 08:19 AM

Sheriff Paul Babeu said Monday that he will not seek re-election to a third term next year and instead will join the race for the U.S. House seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is challenging Republican Sen. John McCain's bid for a sixth term on Capitol Hill.

"I, as well as most Americans, are fed up with the inaction, the ineffectiveness of Washington," Babeu, 46, the highest law enforcement officer in Pinal County, Ariz., told Newsmax in an interview. "It's broke. It needs to be fixed immediately. "You're not going to get this fixed by sending the same politicians. You need to send people of action.

"I feel compelled, as a citizen of this nation, to run," Babeu said.

Babeu, a Republican who was first elected sheriff in 2008, will join three other announced candidates seeking Kirkpatrick's seat. He was named "Sheriff of the Year" in 2011 by the National Sheriff's Association. Kirkpatrick, 65, who has served three terms in the House, said in May that she would challenge McCain, 79, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate who currently chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Other declared challengers include Republicans Gary Kiehne, who lost the 2014 race to Kirkpatrick, and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Tom O'Halleran is seeking the seat.

Spanning the size of New York State, the Arizona district has switched congressional representation between both parties over the past decade, though it leans Republican. Its major cities include Flagstaff and Tucson — and the Grand Canyon is located in the primarily rural district. The area also sits along the U.S. border with Mexico, which is critical to Babeu's plan to stop illegal immigration. As many as 123,000 illegals are arrested in the Tucson sector of the border, which includes Pinal County, every year, he said.

"As a two-term sheriff, I've had a front-row seat in dealing with the federal government," Babeu told Newsmax. "At just about every turn, they've made our jobs difficult. We've worked tirelessly to protect the citizens of rural Arizona."

An Army National Guard veteran of the Iraq War, Babeu was a commanding officer in 2006 as part of "Operation Jump Start," in which President George W. Bush deployed 6,000 Guard members to help Border Patrol agents stop illegal immigrants from coming into the country.

In 2011, Babeu's deputies were critical in the arrests of 76 smugglers carrying drugs worth $2 billion as part of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.

More than 100 weapons were confiscated, including two AK-47s that were eventually traced to the bungled "Fast and Furious" gun-running operation that eventually led to then-Attorney General Eric Holder's contempt citation by Congress. In June 2014, deputies and Border Patrol agents arrested eight Mexican drug cartel members working as scouts while living in the mountains — and Babeu said as many as 19 have been nailed so far this year. Arizona County

"This is insane that it's fallen to the job of the local sheriff to fight these cartels — and we need help," Babeu told Newsmax. "This problem can't be solved by one county, by one state. This is a federal problem."

His platform also includes working against excessive federal regulations via the EPA and Forestry Service. The Grand Canyon State has many coal-fired power plants — "and I will fight any of the misguided efforts to shutter those plants," Babeu said.

The sheriff told Newsmax that he was expecting the field for the House seat to grow to as many as 12 by the primaries next Aug. 30. The general election will be held next on Nov. 8, 2016.

"We have strong support, and I feel very confident entering the race," Babeu said. "It'll be a battle where I intend to articulate a very conservative message of limited government, freedom for individuals and securing the border.

"Regardless who runs, I'm in this race to win," he added. "I have support from regular people who are tired of being lied to and want leader of not only action, but who will honor their promises."