Campaign rhetoric in the race for Arizona attorney general has taken on an accusatory tone, as Republican leaders try to push one of their own, incumbent Tom Horne, out of office.
Horne is being challenged by Mark Brnovich, a Phoenix lawyer who is a former federal prosecutor and head of the state Department of Indian Gaming. Brnovich has latched into a series of legal travails that embroil Horne.
The attorney general, first elected to the office in 2010 after two terms as state schools chief, overcame an accusation that he illegally coordinated his last campaign with an outside group. An administrative law judge determined there was not enough evidence to proceed with a prosecution.
He also was subject of a now closed FBI investigation that included agents observing him driving with a female employee in his vehicle when the vehicle bumped into a parked car. Horne drove away without leaving a note.
Now, he is in the middle of an investigation that he ran his reelection campaign out of the attorney general’s office, an accusation made by a former employee.
Horne said there is a simple explanation for his troubles.
“In 2010 when I won the office, I won it back for the Republicans. It had been in Democratic hands for 12 years," Horne said. "For the first time in many years the Republicans had all the statewide offices, and the liberal press couldn’t stand that and they engaged in ceaseless attacks on me, big headlines.”
Brnovich said he does not buy the incumbent’s explanation.
“At some point we need to appreciate that it is not the FBI, it is not Republican county attorneys, it is not the Clean Elections Committee," Brnovich said. "It is always somebody else’s fault. And one of the lessons we tried to instill in our children is you are ultimately responsible for your actions and at some point you are responsible for what you do. You can’t always blame other people.”
Besides the focus on Horne's legal troubles, both candidates are claiming to be the more conservative. Horne points to two U.S. Supreme Court victories against the Obama administration. Brnovich maintains the state could do more to challenge the Democratic president and federal intrusion.
Horne’s troubles have put him on the wrong side of Republican leaders. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake have urged him to get out of the race, and Gov. Jan Brewer endorsed Brnovich. Horne called it typical, saying the establishment has never liked him.
“When the establishment is against me, the grassroots will be for me,” he said.
Brnovich called that comical and “Nixonian.”
The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the November election. Rotellini lost narrowly to Horne in 2010.