Unnaturally Political

Is Tom Horne Becoming Arizona’s Rob Ford?

He is plagued with accusations of illegal and immoral activity, not just in his public life, but in his private life as well.

News about accusations plaguing Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne — as well as a Clean Elections investigation — dominate local and national headlines. A Canadian native, save for a drug scandal, his press coverage is bearing resemblance to that of Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

First elected in 1997 to the Arizona house of representatives, Horne appeared — on paper — to be a qualified and capable candidate to serve as the Grand Canyon State’s top law-enforcement official when he first ran for the post in 2010.

That year, he beat Democrat Felecia Rotellini by four percentage points and seemed poised to add his name to the growing list of powerful Arizona Republicans actively pushing back against the federal overreach. AGs across the country have asserted their last-line-of-defense authority in recent years, as seen in the 2011 lawsuit by more than half of sitting state attorneys general over Obamacare’s individual mandate and the growing number of legal battles challenging the actions of federal departments, including a lawsuit by 12 attorneys general against the Environmental Protection Agency and multi-state opposition to the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against Boeing Company.

Four years later, however, prominent Republicans, including Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, have abandoned Horne and his November reelection bid.

Horne’s personal infractions include an alleged affair with a subordinate female staffer and misdemeanor hit-and-run. His traffic violation just happened to be witnessed by FBI agents tailing Horne at the time as a part of their investigation into his violation of campaign-finance law.

Earlier this year, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk concluded, after the FBI investigation into e-mail and phone records between Horne and Kathleen Winn, then-chairwoman of the independent expenditure Business Leaders for Arizona, that Horne had illegally coordinated campaign activity with the committee and ordered Horne and Winn to reimburse campaign donors $400,000.

It is also worth noting that Winn went on to become the attorney general’s outreach director following his election in 2010.

As if the controversy surrounding Horne’s 2010 campaign activity wasn’t enough, he has now been accused of violating campaign finance law yet again, this time by a former member of his staff who claims the AG’s office essentially has been turned into 2014 reelection campaign headquarters. Last month, Arizona’s Secretary of State’s office issued a memo stating probable cause that Horne again has broken the law by assigning campaign work to state employees, during state time.

But, it is not so much all the accusations and scandals — not to mention their eerily similar appearances — that make Tom Horne a Rob Ford in the making. It is his refusal to do the right thing by his state, his constituents, the law, and the Republican party and step aside.

Horne is being challenged in the Aug. 26 Republican primary by former Gaming Department Director Mark Brnovich. Brnovich, a successful lawyer who previously served as a prosecutor for the Maricopa County attorney’s office, also represented the Arizona Department of Gaming while working in the attorney general’s office, and served as an assistant United States Attorney where he spent years prosecuting — you guessed it — public integrity crimes.

But the sitting AG, despite outcries from fellow attorneys and high-ranking officials across the state to resign, continues to not only maintain his role, but insists on running for reelection. The primary battle between Horne and Brnovich is setting the stage for Democrats to takeover of the attorney general’s office. If Horne bests Brnovich in the August primary, Rotellini — the same Rotellini who lost to Horne by only four percentage points in 2010 — is likely to defeat him this time.

However, unlike the voters in Toronto who have to wait until October to cast their ballot for their next mayor, Arizona voters get to take to the polls next week. It’s not a huge head start on making a statement for what they stand for, but it is something, and Arizonans would be wise not to waste it. The only challenge is the direction unaffiliated voters will swing.

Arizona has a semi-closed primary system, which means voters registered with a particular party are only allowed to vote in their party’s primary. But unaffiliated voters can vote in either party’s primary.

Given that, as of March, Arizona has more than 4,000 more unaffiliated voters than it has Republicans, and that total makes up nearly 35 percent of the active voting population, Brnovich has much to be concerned about. If Democrats are able to turn out even a small portion of these unaffiliated voters for Horne in the primary, they may just secured their victory over him come November.

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