PHOENIX (AP) — 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. Whoever wins will take on Democrat Felecia Rotellini, who is running unopposed, in November.
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 says 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 criminal laws."
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 task force.
Brnovich and his supporters say 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-fired 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 3½ years, because we haven't seen enough vigorous action."
Brnovich says he'll aggressively fight federal government overreach and work to prosecute drug cartels and protect the unborn and elderly.
Brnovich, a Phoenix native, has served as a prosecutor in Maricopa County, at the attorney generals' 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 has also worked for the Goldwater Institute's Center for Constitutional Government and was a director at a private prison company.
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 the decision.
He also faces new campaign-finance allegations brought by a former staffer that he was using his executive staff to run his re-election bid. Three investigations are underway.
Horne said the neutral judge found the 2010 campaign finance allegations lacked merit, and he 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.