Anti-illegal immigration stalwart Joe Sweeney, best known for repeatedly running for offices he did not win and railing against illegal immigration at public forums, died in Tucson Saturday.
The 66-year old battled cancer earlier in his life, and family members believe it came back and contributed to his death, said Sweeney’s nephew, Philip Cojanis.
Sweeney frequently spoke at public meetings, telling the Tucson City Council or Pima County Board of Supervisors they needed to control illegal immigration. He would ask federal and local public officials to crack down on the illegal border crossings.
He ran numerous times for Congress, most notably against U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, though he was never elected.
In 2004 the Pima County Republican party considered distancing itself from Sweeney’s campaign. The group ultimately decided not to get involved in his campaign one way or another.
Family members were still sorting through the details Monday of Sweeney’s unexpected death. Cojanis said the family is putting together more information and was still jarred by the news Monday.
“He was a good man, and from what we’re even just finding out, he helped so many people in so many ways. We’re just overwhelmed by how many people are finding out what’s happened,” Cojanis said.