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Updated Aug 7, 2014 - 9:49 am

Gov. Brewer endorses Tom Horne’s opponent in party race

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer turned her back on embattled Attorney
General Tom Horne on Thursday and instead endorsed his opponent in August’s
Republican primary.

Brewer’s endorsement of former state Gaming Department Director Mark Brnovich
is a major blow for Horne. It comes as he faces two investigations into
allegations that he illegally used his staff to run his re-election campaign.

The attorney for the former Horne staffer who alleges Horne was using his
state-paid staff for campaign work said Thursday that she has been interviewed
by Maricopa County investigators in an apparent third investigation and has been
interviewed by the FBI. Neither agency would confirm an investigation.

Brewer’s endorsement statement didn’t mention Horne by name. Instead she said
she wants an attorney general “who will fill the office with integrity and
compassion.” While endorsements don’t always mean a lot, Brewer’s carries great
weight in Arizona because of her status as the popular top Republican in the
state. And abandoning a fellow Republican incumbent is seen are particularly
damaging.

“It has been my experience that doing the right thing often means doing the
hard thing,” Brewer said in a statement released by Brnovich’s campaign.
“That’s why I look for candidates with the courage of conviction to stand for
Arizona and who are willing to stand up against the Obama Administration.”

Brewer was in Nashville, Tenn., for a National Governors Association
meeting and unavailable. Her spokesman, Andrew Wilder, confirmed the
endorsement.

The endorsement comes a day after Arizona’s secretary of state said that there
is reasonable cause to believe Horne violated state election laws by using his
staff to work on his re-election campaign and a full investigation is merited.
The determination was sent to Horne’s solicitor general, who late Wednesday
appointed a retired appeals court judge and Gilbert’s town attorney to
investigate and potentially bring civil enforcement action.

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission authorized a separate investigation
into the same issue on June 18. The commission could order Horne removed from
office.

Potentially more dangerous for Horne is the investigation that whistleblower
Sarah Beattie’s attorney says has been launched by the Maricopa County Attorney.
Attorney Tom Ryan said he doesn’t know if it is civil or criminal, and either is
possible.

“If it was criminal, there are a series of misdemeanors involved,” Ryan said.
“But one of the things we allege is destruction of evidence, so it is quite
possible they could find evidence of obstruction of justice, which is much more
than a simple misdemeanor.”

The existence of a possible investigation was first reported by The Arizona
Republic.

County Attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb said the office does not confirm or deny
the existence of investigations. The FBI said it could not confirm or deny an
interview of Beattie.

Ryan said Beattie has met twice in recent weeks with detectives and prosecutors
with the county attorney’s office and is providing them documents he says prove
that Horne was directing staff to do campaign work while they were in the
office. Horne has denied any wrongdoing, though he has said there may have been
some “political water cooler talk” during office hours. He has also attacked
Beattie’s credibility.

Horne said he’s not surprised by Brewer’s endorsement of Brnovich because she
appointed him as her gaming director. He also said he doesn’t believe it will
change the complexion of the race.

“People will make up their own minds. They’re not going to let her decide
their vote,” Horne said.

Brnovich called Brewer’s nod “a major game-changer.”

“This is a huge signal to the party that Tom is gone and that I am the
front-runner and it’s time for folks to get behind my candidacy,” he said.
“Because we need to make sure we do everything we can to hold onto that seat.”

Whoever wins the Republican primary will face Democrat Felecia Rotellini in
November in a rematch of the 2010 attorney general election matchup. Horne edged
Rotellini by about 4 percent of the votes cast.

Horne is suing to block the clean elections investigation, saying the
commission doesn’t have the authority to enforce election laws for candidates
not participating in Arizona’s public campaign financing system.

He already is appealing a finding by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk that
he and a top aide illegally coordinated spending by an outside group supporting
his 2010 election bid.

Despite allegations that have dogged Horne since the 2010 election issue arose
more than two years ago, Brnovich is far behind in fundraising. From Jan. 1-May.
30, Brnovich brought in about $76,000, bringing his total contributions since he
announced his bid last year to nearly $128,000. After expenses, he had less than
$90,000 in the bank.

Horne brought in more than $100,000 in the same period, bringing his cash on
hand to nearly $400,000 to ward off the primary challenge.

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