state Attorney General Debate

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Democratic incumbent State Attorney General Terry Goddard faces challenger Republican Bill Montgomery.

Michael Grant: Tonight on Horizon Special: a debate between the two candidates running for attorney general. It is the office that is the Chief Prosecutor and Legal Officer for the state of Arizona. That's next on Horizon.

Announcer: Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant: Good evening. Welcome to Horizon. I'm Michael Grant. The office of Arizona attorney general is second in line to replace the governor if necessary, and in our state's past the attorney general has gone on once to become governor. The attorney general serves a four-year term, and besides being chief state prosecutor serves as legal advisor for the state executive offices and for most state agencies, boards, departments and commissions. Coming up, a debate between the two men running for the office. But first here's a quick look at each candidate.

Mike Sauceda: Terry Goddard is 59 and resides in Phoenix. He's an attorney, he is married and has one son. He's running as a clean elections candidate. Bill Montgomery is 39. He resides in Gilbert. He's an attorney, he's married and has two children. He's running as a clean election candidate.

Michael Grant: And joining me now is Democratic Incumbent Attorney General Terry Goddard as well as his Republican Challenger Bill Montgomery. Tonight's debate sponsored by Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission, also sponsoring the debate is the Arizona Capitol Times. Each candidate has one minute to make an opening statement. The order of presentation was chosen right before the show by random lot. And Bill Montgomery, you won. Your opening statement, please.

Bill Montgomery: Sure. Arizona has had the worst crime rate in the nation for the last six years in a row, and we need an attorney general to bring the strong leadership and the decisive action necessary to attack it. The most recent uniform crime report released by the F.B.I. revealed that Arizona has the fourth worst murder rate in the nation, we have the second worst property crime rate, second worst vehicle theft rate, the fourth worst larceny theft rate and the 11th worst burglary rate. And out of the four crimes that make up the violent crime index, three of the four are up. And violent crime is up overall as well. This evening I would ask voters to watch and determine which of the candidates has the attitude and approach to attack this problem and the two major contributing factors: illegal immigration and drug smuggling. My opponent has no plan, no vision, has not provided the leadership necessary in order to tackle these issues of significance to all of Arizona voters. I'm Bill Montgomery, and I look forward to serving as the next attorney general.

Michael Grant: Terry Goddard?

Terry Goddard: Thank you, Michael. It's been my privilege to serve for the last three and a half years as your attorney general. And during that time I'm very proud of the progress that we have made in making Arizona families safer. I have led the fight against crime specifically focused on methamphetamine, the number one root cause of criminal activity in Arizona and across the country. I focused on border security by-- for the last three years-- working to disrupt the financial activities of border smugglers, whether they be smuggling human beings or smuggling drugs. I focused on consumer protection, and that's something they're trying to make sure that all Arizona consumers are treated fairly, that they are not ripped off, that they are not deceived by false advertising, that they don't become the victims of failure to follow Arizona law. I fought for safety for children on the internet. This is a new and very serious problem that we have right now facing Arizona and across the country. It's been my privilege to work with an extraordinary team at the attorney general's office and the men and women of law enforcement throughout Arizona, and I look forward excitedly to continuing the progress that we have made in the next four years. Thank you.

Michael Grant: Bill, let me return to the point that you made on the worst crime rate. Although in theory the state's chief prosecutor, we all know that most street crime is handled by local police and sheriff's offices and prosecuted by county attorneys' offices.

Bill Montgomery: Certainly.

Michael Grant: Is that a relevant issue in terms of the crime statistics that you mentioned given the duties of office of attorney general?

Bill Montgomery: Yes, I believe so. When you look at the office as being in addition to advising state agencies, also being the chief law enforcement office for the state, there's a leadership role in addition to those crimes that the attorney general's office does prosecute, which does include white collar crime, some RICO crime and consumer protection in other areas that have been mentioned. But when it comes to fighting crime--

Michael Grant: But not drugs, murder, and those kinds of things?

Bill Montgomery: Well some of those cases are prosecuted by the attorney general's office.

Michael Grant: In general would you agree with me though most are not?

Bill Montgomery: Well that's what I said at the beginning when you asked me the question. That that's true, most street level crime is handled by county attorneys. But we've got 15 county attorneys and we have a problem of crime in the state. So when you look at the leadership component of the attorney general's office, simply standing back and allowing 15 counties to try to fight a criminal threat that is much more organized than what we should be doing as far as our response in allowing 15 counties to go after it. You know, what the attorney general in this state could and should have done in the most recent budget cycle was to have made a claim and a case for why we need more resources for law enforcement that. That didn't happen. In fact social spending increased 39%, public safety spending increased 18%. And that was a missed opportunity.

Michael Grant: Response?

Terry Goddard: We did fight at the legislature for additional salaries for highway patrolmen, for additional legal authority to go after identity thieves in specific and methamphetamine abusers. But, you know, if we're going to talk about statistics let's talk about crime statistics. I think any crime is too high. I think that my job is to fight hard to reduce the opportunity to commit crime and to make sure that offenders are prosecuted within the limits that you described Michael, the fact that we are primarily formed at the AG's office to go after complex financial fraud, that's the authority of the state wide grand jury but in the last four years our crime rate has come down every year, every year that I have been attorney general, we've had a reduction. Over four years there's been a 15% reduction. So it's easy to throw numbers around. But I think the basic point is that we're doing better. There's a lot more to be done but we're doing much better. And frankly, the men and women of law enforcement, the prosecutors, and the street cops and the sheriffs around Arizona I think have done a terrific job. And I think to throw this out as a political whipping boy the way it's been is a discredit to all of them.

Michael Grant: In November Arizona voters are going to be voting on a proposition that would basically give the judge the opportunity to eliminate probation for methamphetamine possession. Should they vote for that?

Terry Goddard: Yes. Prop 301 has my full support. I think that we went too far before when we sort of mandated that you had to get probation for drug offenses. Meth is different from other drug offenses. It's the number one cause for child and spousal brutality in the state of Arizona. And for that reason alone I think that somebody who has a meth problem needs help immediately. And one of the most powerful ways a judge can get them help is to have the threat of a jail term hanging over them.

Michael Grant: Bill?

Bill Montgomery: I agree. Voters should vote for Prop 301. We do need to take a stronger approach toward methamphetamine use. I also believe we should increase the penalties for methamphetamine manufacturing, trafficking and distribution. And after a first time offense, the second time offense- well, I would say the first time offense should involve mandatory prison time. And the second should render someone eligible for a life sentence. Either this is a serious issue we're willing to tackle or it's just another political tool for someone to deal with in a political season. And getting back to prosecutors and law enforcement officers, I respect what they do. I have been a prosecutor. And I have worked with law enforcement officers. And it's just a shame that they have been abandoned for three out of the four years my opponent has been in office. And only during an election year all of a sudden come out and want to talk about being a tough prosecutor. That's unfortunate that instead it's become a political tool for my opponent instead of something he could've been dedicated for every year.

Michael Grant: Let me go to the proposition on the ballot that would deny bail to illegal aliens who commit serious felonies. Should voters cast their vote for that?

Bill Montgomery: I think they should. I believe we should pass that. Judges right now can take that into account in determining whether or not someone is eligible for bail, but I think it's important for us in Arizona, where we are the main thoroughfare for both human and drug smuggling, an industry that's valued over $23 billion a year, for us to do what we can as a border state to send the message that Arizona is going to be a no-go territory for both human and drug smuggling and we are not going to stand for it. This is an important tool in the array of measures we can and should take in order to change that environment.

Michael Grant: Denying bails to illegal aliens, Terry, who commit serious felonies?--

Terry Goddard: Of course, Michael. We have been in court over and over again in cases involving drug smuggling. To deny bail or if it's a very large bail that's been set to make sure it's done legitimately. We recently had a case where $1 million was posted in cash and the judge disallowed it because it was clearly the proceeds of crime. But let me go back to something that was said just a minute ago. I mean, we have worked closely in my office, and I personally, with law enforcement throughout this state. And that's why they are endorsing my candidacy. Every single law enforcement organization has said they want more chance to work with me in teamwork as their attorney general. So we have had a great team and I would like to continue it.

Michael Grant: Let's stick with the illegal immigration subject. As you know, Prop 300 basically is sequel to Prop 200, it would deny more services to illegal aliens here. Number of people feel the reason why Prop 300 is on the ballot now is because of an opinion your office issued which basically gutted Proposition 200, interpreted it too narrowly. Have they got a point? I suspect you think they don't.

Terry Goddard: You're absolutely right. What we did, as soon as it seemed possible that Prop 200 might pass, I put a team of lawyers together to basically say okay, let's take this proposition, which has not yet become law but which may be, and let's go as quickly as we can to make sure that we can defend it to challenges that come against it. We issued an opinion which Kathy McKee, one of the drafters, said it was as if we had been in the original room where the proposition was drafted. We got their intention so correct. We took as one of the cornerstones the fact that they put the statute in Title 46, which is the welfare statute. It was applied specifically to welfare programs in the state of Arizona. That was the intention of the original drafters of Prop 200, but it was also in my opinion the only way that we could defend Prop 200 in constitutional challenges. We have successfully defended it against five challenges so far. There are more coming but we have been able to stand up in court both state and federal and say this is interpretable, it follows the constitution of the United States and the constitution of Arizona and it should be the law of the land. And it has been. We have just had an election conducted under that proposition.

Michael Grant: Bill, I suspect your position is going to be that the Prop 200 was interpreted too narrowly by the office, but here's one of the problems. Before it passed, supporters of Proposition 200 took a position, the vast majority of them, that it would be a very narrow and constricted set of benefits to which it would apply. Attorney general's office issued an opinion consistent with that. Was it improperly crafted?

Bill Montgomery: Well yes. I challenge whether or not a majority of supporters believed that it was going to be as Terry wound up interpreting it. And we should go back in time too in his vocal opposition to Proposition 200 and his statement to police and firefighters that if this passed they wouldn't be able to render emergency services unless they checked if someone could receive those services legally. Obviously, that never happened. So that was an incorrect interpretation at the outset. As far as narrowing the scope of the program down to where out of five programs two cover eyeglasses, it's just ridiculous. It was narrowed to the point where Proposition 300 now became necessary. And before my opponent tries to take credit for the two voting provisions going into in effect, we need to go back in time and look at just what kind of quality legal advice he gave the Secretary of State. He advised Jan Brewer on two different occasions that she had to go through the legislature to get implementing legislation for those voting provisions to go into effect. Well twice she did it, twice the governor vetoed it, and ultimately those provisions went into effect without any implementing legislation to the legislature. So the question to be asked: was the advice incorrect to go to the legislature two times or were the actions incorrect to sign off on the procedures without the legislation?

Michael Grant: What about the voting aspects of Proposition 200?

Terry Goddard: Let me address that. There's no question that Proposition 200 would have been far easier to defend if the legislature had provided the basis for the Secretary of State to issue the rules that she did. My opinion was right on, and it would have improved the odds to support Prop 200 against legal challenge. That's my job. I'm there to make sure Arizona law whenever possible is constitutional and that I support that constitutional interpretation. So we did it to a tee. Are there other activities in the legislature that happened were the result of other political forces, but to get to your question, essentially the voting aspects are subject to identification rules which have been adopted by the secretary of state, approved by myself and by the governor. Those rules I argued at the time could have been somewhat more lenient. In other words there could have been more ways for people to identify themselves. What we finally came up with I believe is defensible. But similar rules in other states have been challenged successfully based on the fact that they pose undue burden on voters. So we're going to have our work cut out for us to avoid- to stand back those challenges in the state.

Michael Grant: Bill, let me give you an opportunity to respond. There have been allegations that you hired illegal aliens for your television commercial.

Bill Montgomery: Yes.

Michael Grant: Did you?

Bill Montgomery: No.

Michael Grant: There's no truth whatsoever - because I believe it's been backed by someone independent of the campaign, a ranger who says they observed that conduct and activity.

Bill Montgomery: Sure. Sure. And it's rather politically convenient for my opponent who has provided no leadership in fighting the illegal immigration issue and again woke up as from a slumber to realize it was important in this race, but the allegation itself is false. I didn't hire any illegal aliens. Voters can have great confidence that I will uphold the law and follow the law as well. There's no issue there. But on the point of illegal immigration and taking a look at that, it is rather disingenuous of my opponent to claim any leadership on the issue whatsoever when he has undermined the actual scope of our coyote law as it can and should be enforced and has actually come out and said that he doesn't think you can also prosecute the clients of coyotes. Well it's just wrong-headed. And having been a prosecutor with experience in handling cases involving conspiracies and accomplices you most certainly can prosecute someone who contracted for illegal services just as much as you can prosecute someone who provided them.

Michael Grant: What is your position on that? As you know, that's thrashing around at the lower courts and ultimately I think, or perhaps may already be pending in the appellate court, whether or not the smugglee can be charged.

Terry Goddard: There has not been a single successful conviction of someone who apparently conspired with themselves to be smuggled across the border. That's number one. Why do you waste your time on a prosecution where the proper procedure should be to turn them over to the immigration authorities and have them deported? The focus of the law in Arizona is to find the people who are profiting from smuggling people across the border illegally. And that's what we have done. We're the number one prosecutor of coyotes in the state since the new law went into effect. By the way, the sponsor of the bill, Representative Payton, also said his focus was on the people who did it for money, not on the people who got smuggled. So I think we're on very strong ground. And the law enforcement efforts in our office since the bill went into effect in December, we have 126 defendants, and we're going to go after a lot more because the focus needs to be and should be against the people who are trafficking in human beings. That's what I'm dedicated to doing and we have been doing that for the last three and a half years. We have a terrific record of going after the money that coyotes get for their nefarious deeds.

Michael Grant: Would you council the legislature knot to make it absolutely clear that smugglees, for a lack of a better term, are actively and can be prosecuted under that law?

Terry Goddard: It clearly wasn't their intention if they're going. If that's what they want to do they're going to have to make it absolutely clear, yes.

Michael Grant: But would you advise them to do so? If that is their intent?

Terry Goddard: If that is their policy decision that's what they need to do to have the law enforcement have a ground to stand on in terms of bringing these cases.

Michael Grant: It does seem slightly bizarre, you can make an argument that we should be focusing our resources on the people actually moving the illegals over the border together with a whole lot of other stuff including but not limited to methamphetamine. Should we be messing around with the illegal aliens instead of concentrating on the people that are causing it to happen?

Bill Montgomery: Well, and I think your phrasing of it isn't correct either. They're not messing around with them. And I think this also highlights a distinct difference between a prosecutor's approach to an issue and a politician's approach. Staying very comfortably with the confines of what my opponent thinks is the only thing that should be going on doesn't advance the issue, doesn't advance the need of Arizona to change the environment in which this is going on. You most certainly can prosecute someone for conspiring to commit a crime where they are receiving illegal services. A rather narrow interpretation doesn't fall under the heading of providing leadership on illegal immigration. I think it's important for us- and by the way, Terry, quick law101, nobody who has been charged with an indictment under the coyote law has smuggled themselves. You have got to have somebody else there engaged in the act as well. In fact in one of the lower court proceedings, set aside for the moment that they weren't prosecuted because a lot of plea bargains have been issued where convictions have been had, but the case was allowed to continue. There was enough evidence there for it to be done. And I would encourage other counties to do the same.

Michael Grant: How much of a priority should consumer protection be for the attorney general's office?

Bill Montgomery: It should continue to be an important priority, and that's why I don't believe that we are dealing with a zero sum gain here. That there are an absolute finite amount of resources in the attorney general's office that can only used to focus on one matter at a time. We have had the worst crime rate in the nation for six years in a row. Now is a perfect opportunity to work with the legislature and get more resources for law enforcement, to get more resources for the department of law, to handle the myriad of responsibilities that there are for the attorney general to work with. Again--

Michael Grant: Any particular emphasis or area in consumer protection?

Bill Montgomery: Well, identity theft I think is important in order to address that. You know, the number of identity theft victims in the state has nearly doubled in the last three years. In addition to education, which is an important part, but we also need to move beyond that. I would like to see identity theft become a class 3 felony. Right now stealing a car in this state is a class 3 felony. If you steal someone's identity you don't just inconvenience transportation, which ultimately also could impact a family being unable to get to work, but you rob someone of their identity, it impacts their credit, their ability maybe then to get a job, all the time and aggravation that goes into trying to fix that.

Michael Grant: Consumer protection. You have certainly emphasized it during your tenure. More emphasis and if so, areas in particular.

Terry Goddard: Well Michael, it's one of the most serious obligations the attorney general has because whereas criminal prosecution is harbored with the county attorneys, they're the ones that have the first line of defense there, and consumer protection, the attorney general's office has the authority, so we field 80,000 complaints a year. We turn about 20,000 of those into active cases and we provide a lot of education for people out there to try to keep them, to harden the target, to make sure that people aren't the victims of fraud and abuse in the customer area. I think we have a lot of ground to make up in terms of identity theft. That is the number one increasing fraud - excuse me, felony in the United States. And it's something that has had great attention from our office both on the educational side and on the prosecution side. We have had dozens of convictions in the identity theft area. The target keeps changing however, it's mutating constantly into new schemes and new ways of defrauding people. We've had some cases just this week that involve particularly nefarious efforts to defraud elderly people out of their savings by using identity theft methods. So there's a lot to be done there, but there's other areas of consumer fraud that I think need our attention on a continuing basis. False advertising, or deceptive advertising is one very important one that we have taken aggressive measures against. And finally, the failure of major retailers to price correctly, to follow Arizona's statutes on pricing is something that we've taken a strong position on in spite of the fact that these are industry leaders.

Michael Grant: All right. Gentlemen, we're out of time for the debate between the candidates running for Arizona attorney general. Each candidate is going to have one minute for closing statement. Order of presentation again chosen randomly right before the program. And Terry, you're first.

Terry Goddard: Thank you, Michael. I would like to thank everybody for sticking with us this for this whole half hour. I think it's been made clear there are a lot of complicated challenges facing the attorney general in Arizona. Those challenges being the state's lawyer, mount in many different legal areas. And there's no place where I think experience and on the job activities are more important in making sure that we do the right thing and the many, many different legal challenges. Now this evening we've talked a great deal about criminal law. And that's appropriate. It needs to be a priority and a focus, and I believe that any crime is too many, and that my job as I said earlier is to reduce the opportunity and that's by hardening the targets, making sure education is there for consumers and potential victims and to prosecute vigorously. And you've seen that most recently in the Baptist foundation, successful trial after ten months so we've worked very, very vigorously. We've been bringing down the crime rate every year that I have been attorney general and I'm proud of that. And I think it shows real partnership with men and women and law enforcement who have endorsed my candidacy for reelection. And I request your vote on November 7.

Michael Grant: Bill Montgomery, you're closing statement.

Bill Montgomery: Certainly. Unfortunately, my opponent's rhetoric doesn't match my opponent's record. Violent crime is on the rise and one victim in Arizona is one victim too many. And before taking credit for the Baptist foundation prosecution, I didn't see Terry in there presenting any evidence. There was a good team of prosecutors who are handling it. And I certainly would support them in their efforts as they continue to work in the attorney general's office. But if it had not been for the work I did on behalf of victims in the Baptist foundation case the court administrator wouldn't have had room for them to be able to observe the proceedings. There was no help from the attorney general's office on making that case. Terry wasn't there. Additionally, the most recent plea that was entered into includes an unconstitutional provision that would restrict ability of over 10,000 victims to receive full restitution from a defendant. That's not working on behalf of victims. And with respect to leadership and prosecution experience, I think that is important for voters to consider in this race with having the worst crime rate in the nation for six years in a row. We can do better, we will do better. And I'd appreciate your vote November 7.

Michael Grant: Bill Montgomery, thank you very much for joining us. Terry Goddard, good to see you. Gentlemen, best of luck to both of you on the campaign trail. Tomorrow we conclude the clean election debates with the three candidates running for governor. Thanks for joining us this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Goodnight.

Announcer: Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Attorney General Terry Goddard:Democratic incumbent;

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