PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne will find out Tuesday if
voters think three years fighting off allegations of campaign finance violations
and other negative news outweighs what he argues is a solid record of
accomplishments as the state’s top law enforcement official.
Horne is facing a tough challenge from former state gaming department director
and prosecutor Mark Brnovich in the Republican primary. The winner will take on
Democrat Felecia Rotellini, who is running unopposed in the primary, in
Horne’s legal problems have cost him support among the GOP establishment, with
prominent politicians like Gov. Jan Brewer and former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl
endorsing Brnovich over the incumbent, and figures like Maricopa County Attorney
Bill Montgomery calling on him to resign.
But Horne said voters should look past what he says are unfounded complaints
against him and look at his record.
“I think the voters are interested in the actual achievements,” Horne said in
an interview last week. “I personally argued two Supreme Court cases, one of
which established our right to require evidence of citizenship to vote, the
other of which limited federal interference in state courts enforcing our
He also pointed to a bank settlement over foreclosures that brought in $2
billion that bolstered state coffers and helped keep people in their homes, and
his work expanding consumer protections and creating a child sex-trafficking
Brnovich and his supporters said Horne’s record in office is tainted by
allegations of campaign finance violations that stem from his 2010 election
campaign and a new case from his re-election effort. He argued Horne’s record
isn’t that stellar, even if one discounts personal legal troubles that have kept
him in the news as a defendant rather than a prosecutor.
“I think there are some things that Tom may have done that maybe you tipped
your hat to, but at the end of day, he’s been MIA on so many issues,” Brnovich
said earlier this month. “And I don’t know if that’s because he has been
distracted by his legal and ethical problems, because he seems to spend more
time these days in a courtroom with his personal defense attorney versus
prosecuting and protecting Arizonans.”
Brnovich cites Horne’s failure to fight federal mandates such as new clear air
rules for coal-fires power plants that could harm the state’s power supply, new
clean water act rules and endangered species’ regulations.
“Tom Horne likes to say that he sues Obama twice before breakfast,” Brnovich
said. “I commented to someone that he’s probably only ate breakfast one time
then in the last 31/2 years, because we haven’t seen enough vigorous action.”
Brnovich said he’ll aggressively fight federal government overreach and work to
prosecute drug cartels and protect the unborn and elderly.
A Phoenix native, Brnovich has served as a prosecutor in Maricopa County, at
the attorney general’s office and as an assistant U.S. attorney. He was
appointed state Gaming Department director by Brewer in 2009 and stepped down
last year to run for attorney general. He’s also worked for the Goldwater
Institute’s Center for Constitutional Government was a director at a private
Horne is a lawyer who served in the legislature from 1996-2000, then two terms
as Superintendent of Public Instruction before winning his current office in a
2010 race against Rotellini.
His legal troubles began shortly after the 2010 election, when an investigation
was launched into whether he illegally coordinated with an outside group run by
an aide that supported him. The FBI began following him, and in 2012, Montgomery
brought civil charges of campaign finance violations.
Horne fought the case, which was pulled from Montgomery and sent to the Yavapai
County Attorney Sheila Polk, who brought the charges again. After a three-day
hearing early this year, an administrative law judge found there was not enough
evidence to support the allegations, but Polk rejected the findings and
reinstated them. Horne has denied wrongdoing, and is appealing.
He also faces campaign finance allegations brought by a former staffer that he
was using his executive staff to run his re-election bid. Three investigations are
Horne said the neutral judge found the 2010 campaign finance allegations lacked
merit, and said the new charges were brought by a “disgruntled, embittered”
former employee and also lack merit.
Horne also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge last year.
The case was filed after FBI agents apparently trailing him in the campaign
finance case saw him drive into a parked vehicle while driving a borrowed car.