Clean Elections Debate – Democratic Candidates for Attorney General

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Meet the Democratic Candidates for Attorney General and find out where they stand on the issues. Invited to attend: David Lujan, Vince Rabago and Felecia Rotellini.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. During this debate, sponsored by the citizens Clean Elections Commission, we hope you learn more about the democratic candidates for attorney general. They are, in alphabetical order, David Lujan, minority leader in the Arizona house of representatives. Vince Rabago a former assistant attorney general in the Arizona attorney general's office. And Felecia Rotellini, also a former assistant attorney general in the state attorney general's office. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier, we drew numbers to see who goes first, and that honor goes to -- David Lujan.

David Lujan: Good evening. I'm the leader of the democratic caucus in the house of representatives and when I'm not, I'm an attorney for the defender of children where we provide legal services for children who are victims of child abuse and domestic violence. I've strived to be an advocate and voice for those who needed one and I want to bring my experience to serve as attorney general. My record includes being an assistant attorney general and in my current role, defenders of children where I've defended countless victims of abuse. And as the leader of the Democrats in the house, I've written laws to crack down on violent crime and identity theft and as your attorney general, I'm make your public safety my top priority.

Ted Simons: Thank you and now, Vince Rabago has one minute.

Vince Rabago: I'm an Arizona native born and raised in Cochise county right on the border. Early on, I saw the border change and saw folks who never worked an honest day driving fancy cars and convertibles and I chose a career in public service and in the justice field. For the past 16 years I've been fighting to protect victims of crime. Fighting against statewide and national fraud cases and at the Arizona attorney general's office and at the California attorney general's office and enforced justice in death penalty cases through the highest levels of the court system. I know what it takes to protect Arizonans and I've made the decision to take those years of experience, fighting against fraud and crime to bring common sense and justice to this office. Thank you.

Ted Simons: And thank you, and now Felecia Rotellini has one minute.

Felecia Rotellini: Thanks, Ted. I'm Felecia Rotellini and I want to be your lawyer and your voice. I grew up in a small town and as a kid, I worked in my mom and dad's business and learned three valuable lessons. Work hard, be honest and give back to the community and those are the lessons I've brought to my 17 years as a prosecutor and a financial watchdog fighting for Arizona families and prosecuting criminals. When the largest and most powerful accounting firm in the world, Arthur Anderson, allowed the Baptist foundation of Arizona to defraud families I was the lead litigator and I recovered $217 million for those victims. That's just one of the reasons why I have been endorsed by law enforcement all over the state of Arizona and the -- all over Arizona and the firefighters. I'm going to prosecute and protect and focus that office on prosecution and protection and not on politics. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you, and let's get the conversation started with a simple question. David, why are you running for this office?

David Lujan: I think the stakes have never been higher. Making sure we keep the attorney general's office in the hands of one who is a responsible leader. We have three candidates who have experience in the courtroom but being that top person you have to have a different kind of experience and skills. You need to understand the policies affecting the state of Arizona in order to effectively carry out your mission of public safety. And that's what makes me the most qualified for this position because say what you will about the legislature, being a legislator gives you an incredible education on the policy issues that impact the state. Whether it's issues about the mentally ill or environment or justice system and being in the legislature for six years and two years for the senate judiciary committee. I understand those policies and that's going to give me the experience in protecting our consumers.

Ted Simons: Vince?

Vince Rabago: Arizona needs a strong attorney general who is going to fight for Arizona and people will be at the forefront. Not the big bankers and CEOs that are getting bailouts. And not the payday lenders who are draining the lifeblood of the working poor. I've fought for justice my whole career and dedicated my life to justice in the attorney general's office. And that passion and to make sure we have someone who is going to fight for Arizonans, fighting against crime, fighting against fraud and trying to protect elders and children is what made me step down in January to fight this fight but it's not just the courtroom experience. I've got the legal experience taking on the biggest industries in the country and getting results but having the strong voice in the court of public opinion. We're not seeing a lot of common sense out the government these days and I've got the strength making sure we fight for common sense justice in this state.

Ted Simons: Felecia, why are you running?

Felecia Rotellini: I'm a hands-on prosecutor with 13 years in the criminal and civil divisions of the attorney general's office and 2006, Janet Napolitano appointed me to run the department of -- where I cracked down on mortgage fraud and predatory lending. I want to run the office as a large prosecutorial office in the state and make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of a career politician that will use and abuse that office for someone's own political gain. The attorney general's protects and serves all Arizona citizens and that's what I'll do as attorney general.

Ted Simons: David, your vision for the office. You've talked about your qualifications and why you're running. What's your vision for the attorney general's office?

David Lujan: The attorney general being the chief law enforcement officer of the state, I think the first thing, make sure we're going after the criminal syndicates, the drug cartels and human traffickers and protecting our senior population so they're not becoming victims of identity theft and consumer fraud. And what I do at my current role, defenders of children, one the biggest areas are for the attorney general, more than one third of the attorneys are protecting children who are victims of child abuse. And I'm the only candidate in this race that has experience in doing that. The border crime, consumer protection and protecting victims.

Ted Simons: A vision for this office, what do you see?

Vince Rabago: My vision is four areas I would prioritize. Number one, we need to investigate those CEOs in those banks playing high-risk poker with our mortgages on Wall Street. It's like the companies that are getting bailouts and investigate predatory lenders and all those of in charge at the top of these institutions. And go after border security by going after the organizations and the cartels and traffickers. If you kill the head of the snake, the rest of the body will die. I intend to be a good steward to aggressively go after these organizations and number three, protect children, seniors and elders, whether it's physical exploitation, financial exploitation and protect consumers from fraud. Finally, identity theft, we're number one. And we must do better training law enforcement and closing the technology gap that seems to occur on these types of crimes. Those are the things we need to and now we need to do more with less now that the budget crisis has hit.

Ted Simons: What do you think?

Felecia Rotellini: It's the duty and the responsibility of the attorney general to keep Arizonans physically and financially save A safe and my priorities are clear: Prosecute crimes and those predators that have threatened our lives and homes. Crack down on consumer fraud, the drug cartels and gangs and make sure nothing crosses our borders that's illegal, whether it's guns, drug, money or people. And thirdly, prosecute those who hurt our elders. I will create a unit in the consumer protection section of the attorney general's office that focuses on all aspects of exploitation and abuse of the elderly. I've been talking all over the state to people and there's a lot of financial fraud and securities fraud and investment fraud and we need to send out a message to the good businesses and unscrupulous that in Arizona, you can't go after our citizens and our elderly.

Ted Simons: From what I hear, the vision is somewhat similar to what is happening now, at the attorney general's office. Maybe a tweak here or there. Felecia, start with you on this one. How would you do things differently than things are done right now?

Felecia Rotellini: Well, my vision, I would focus more on the financial fraud, the mortgage fraud and those loan modification companies. When I was the head of the department of financial institution, I create aid mortgage fraud taskforce in 2006 where I brought all of the different regulators together, that regulated the entities that do mortgages and brought different layers of law enforcement and that was instrumental in the indictment in 2008 by the department of justice. So I already know how to beef up mortgage fraud, consumer fraud and elder fraud. And the other area that I think is very important is to make sure the attorney general, the assistant attorney generals know that they are there to work for the people of Arizona.

Ted Simons: Ok, how would you change the attorney general's office from what is being done now?

Vince Rabago: Given the budget crisis, we have to look from top to bottom and bottom to top to make sure we streamline the process. Having worked in the biggest law office in the country when I started off in California, I see things we can do different internally to make sure we're maximizing our impact. We need to work better and more collaboratively with state and local and federal officials both on border issues and need to make sure that the public tax dollars are spent appropriately. So we need to look at all of our units and look at innovation, I have ideas how to budget to make sure we do things that are not being done now. For example, in terms of technology, here at ASU and down at the university of Arizona, we have professors and graduate students who could work on spyware cases and internet crime and things that aren't done now and we can use those resources to get things done that aren't being done now.

Ted Simons: Change from how the office handles things, what would you change?

David Lujan: I would want to put more emphasis on protecting our seniors. Terry Goddard did a great job but I want to emphasize protecting our seniors from nursing home scams and telemarketers. Right now, there's only half an attorney assigned to the adult protective services. One part time. I think we need to put more attorneys on there. Only 3% of the cases are substantiated. That means we need to train our investigators and assistant attorney generals but reaching out to our senior population. Issues of consumer fraud when we get these things in the mail, like drawings and scam, let's make it easier for them to file complaints with the attorney general's office by setting up partnerships with senior centers and non-profits where they can drop off the mail and the attorney general's office would pick it up and evaluate it. Make it easier and more customer friendly for the seniors.

Ted Simons: Senate Bill 1070, your thoughts on it, A, and B, if you were attorney general and the state were challenged on this, would you represent, would you enforce this law?

Vince Rabago: Let me say first, growing up on the border, I'm the only candidate in this race that has that unique perspective and seen the quality and character of life change on the border, both for the immigration reasons and the cartels. I'm against immigration 100%. We need to be a nation that does enforce our borders. This law does not do anything to end the cartel violence and it's a huge unfunded mandate. There are fiscal reasons why we're shifting this to the local law enforcement to do the federal job. If a time when we're cutting education and selling off our state builds and parks, it's the wrong financial decision. We have a serious issue and this doesn't get the job done and puts the police officers at civil risk.

Ted Simons: Could you represent the state?

Vince Rabago: The office has the obligation to represent the state. On a personal level, I would have -- I came out strongly for those reasons. Including the constitutional aspects we're seeing played out in the courts. I probably would have appointed a independent counsel to represent the state because I don't want it to be a political football it has become.

Ted Simons: 1070, your thoughts and would you enforce the law?

Felecia Rotellini: Everyone knows that our immigration system is broken, and that Arizona is ground zero. Senate Bill 1070 doesn't fix our immigration problem and doesn't do anything to the reform of our immigration. What it does do, however, is create a rift between our Latino community and law enforcement and makes community policing more difficult. We need to be able to rely upon informants and people who will tell where gangbangers are and stash houses and with Senate Bill 1070 we have less likelihood of our neighborhoods being safe and it empowers other gangs. Senate Bill 1070 is a law, and as attorney general, you have to enforce and defend the laws the state. As the attorney for the state of Arizona, I would be able to support and most likely defend the law.

Ted Simons: What do you think? Could you have support and defend this law, A, and B, what do you think of the law in the first place?

David Lujan: As attorney general, you enforce the laws of the state of Arizona, so Senate Bill 1070 goes into the effect, if the courts don't overturn it, I would enforce the law. But I don't think it's the solution to our immigration issue. As a leader in the Democrats in the house, I've been to the border many times and met with law enforcement down there. Where we can be most effective and getting the biggest bang for our buck is going after the criminal syndicates operating. The drug cartels, the human smugglers, we're losing $25 billion a year to Mexico through money laundering. Only 25 cents of every $100 is stopped. That's where I think we can be putting our emphasis. Going after the drug cartels, the money launderers. That's bringing the crime into our community. What Felecia mentioned in terms of witnesses, I agree. And I see it every day at the non profit defenders of children where we have witnesses in domestic violence and child abuse who are afraid to come forward. Even though 1070 hasn't gone into effect yet.

Ted Simons: I'll start with you David, why did you miss the vote on Senate Bill 1070?

David Lujan: Well, you know, 1070 has in the not been around for just the past couple of months. It's been around for years. As a leader of the democrat, I worked strong to kill those bills. When it came up for vote this year, it came up two previously times, and with my leadership, killed those previous attempts and when it came out as 1070, I was already out of town. On a previously scheduled trip scheduled for four months. It wasn't scheduled for a vote until the night before. Prior to that, I had been working with the Latino leaders throughout the state, law enforcement, working to see if we could come up with common-sense solutions so I have a long record of voting against bills like 1070, which I don't believe are the solution.

Ted Simons: Vince, you were quoted, " standing for working families," what does that mean?

Vince Rabago: When I started my campaign, I started it off with family and friends and supporters. I didn't start off with politicians. They're under attack. Whether it's big bankers or drug smugglers or traffickers. I want to always fight for people and Arizona's families so that's how I started my campaign. To make sure people understand that's what I am about. And it's a question of leadership. Are you going to fight for the issues that are important, like families? Like on the issue that David brought up, or you did, I should say, it's a failure of leadership -- if you're elected to be a leader in the house of representatives, you cannot miss a vote like that. Whether you're against or for it, that's your job. As an attorney general, you make life and death decisions that you, not avoid.

David Lujan: My record as a democrat in the house is strong. That's why I have the endorsement of the Arizona education association. And 100% voting record on issues related to the children. And that's why I have 100% voting record with the Sierra club, not only this year, but throughout my history in the legislature, my record as a democratic leader has been strong and particularly with the Latino community.

Ted Simons: Felecia, what are your ties to the banking community? I'm hearing hints there may be a question or two.

Felecia Rotellini: I used to regulate them. The community bankers in Arizona. The small community banks that are in our communities. That support our small businesses. That are run by independent-spirited entrepreneurs. There's about 32 of those in the state of Arizona and if anyone, like my colleague here, understood the banking industry and the regulation of national banks versus state banks, then you'd realize there's a big different between national banks regulated by federal regulators that are getting the bailouts as we hear Vince saying all the time and the small community banks. That didn't get tarp funds in Arizona and frankly have been struggling to help our economy recover. I want to comment on Vince. He says he's there for working families but I want to comment on a lawsuit that he brought right before he decided or announced he was going to run for Arizona attorney general. Vince, you say that you went after the payday lenders because you're fighting for working families. So you file aid lawsuit in December 2009 and in January 2010, you resigned to run for attorney general. And I heard you on the stump speech talking about that payday lender lawsuit. What I've done is gone to the court and looked at the record. That lawsuit has never made it out of the starting gate and while you were still in the attorney general's office, a motion to dismiss was filed that talked about your -- that talked about the allegations. I want to make one more comment.

Ted Simons: We have to stop there. We have to allow him to respond.

Felecia Rotellini: One more second.

Ted Simons: One second.

Felecia Rotellini: You walked out on those families. That lawsuit stopped in the its tracks and you used your position for political grandstanding and those families aren't any better off.

Vince Rabago: The reality of it is this. The data -- the day Ms. Rotelinni resigned, she went to work for a law firm that represents banks. She went straight to the industry she regulated. Taking money from mortgage bankers whom she regulated and those are also bankers and it's a revolving door. The question that needs to be asked: Are you a friend of the industry or not? If you look on the internet, she's listed by mortgage lenders as a friend to the industry.

Ted Simons: 10 seconds, we've got to get the closing statements.

Felecia Rotellini: This is a perfect example of why Vince Rabago should not be attorney general. If I supported -- Vince has had an unremarkable career as assistant attorney general, and the way he's making points in this campaign is going after my 17 years as a prosecutor fighting for Arizona families.

Ted Simons: Respond very quickly to what she's saying.

Vince Rabago: Absolutely incorrect and false. The payday lenders, I investigated them for months, under the leadership of Terry Goddard. Not only to go after the company in Arizona, but the national payday lender. I went into court and obtained a court order. Whatever she's saying she can tell it to the judge.

Felecia Rotellini: That's a lie. That's a lie.

Ted Simons: I hate to say that.

Felecia Rotellini: No injunction on the books.

Ted Simons: I hate to say this, we have to stop because we have to get your closing arguments in.

Felecia Rotellini: No, we're just warming up.

Ted Simons: Maybe we'll get you back here. Each candidate gives a one-minute closing statement and reverse order, we'll start with Felecia Rotellini.

Felecia Rotellini: Thanks, Ted. As your attorney general, my priorities are clear. Prosecute crimes and those who threaten our lives and homes. Prosecute the drug cartels that are bringing drugs and money and humans across our border and above all, protect our seniors and prosecute those who exploit them. I have a record of 17 years of fighting for Arizona families and getting results for victims and keeping our streets safer. If you want Andy Thomas or Tom Horne, then vote for one of these gentleman. I have the record of the results and the tenacity and if you want an attorney general to secure the border and fight for Arizona families and has the record to prove it, I'm the one and I'll get the job done in the general election. I would love your support and please vote for me. And check out my website, at

Ted Simons: Next, Vince Rabago.

Vince Rabago: I'm the only candidate who has dedicated 16 years to fighting for the mission of justice in the attorney general's office. Not only do I have the passion and people who are downtrodden but I have the true tough on crime credentials. The only one what has worked on murder cases and death penalties. So I have those true credentials to be tough open crime to protect Arizona families. The other thing, I was born and raised on the border. Nobody has to lecture me about the border. I know we need to be tough about our laws but be smart and get the job done. I've gone against big companies. My record of results are tied to Terry Goddard and the big cases we filed together. Whether it's myspace to get sexual predators off the internet. And I hope that people vote for me as their candidate this year.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much and next up with a one-minute closing statement will be David Lujan.

David Lujan: The experiences I've had are the best indicator that as your attorney general, I will put people before politics. I became a big brother to Joey when he was six years old and later became his legal guardian because after years of witnessing domestic violence, he needed a stable home. And last year, I had one of the proudest moment, because I -- I'm on the school board, I got to speak and hand him his diploma as he walked across the stage. And protecting the funding for schools and protecting victims of abuse and domestic violence and my work at the legislature for which I was given the award public official of the year by the national association of social workers and it's that protecting people is not a campaign slogan for me. It's what I've done in the courtroom, at the legislature and throughout my life and that's the experience we need in our next attorney general. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you, candidates for joining us and thank you for watching the candidates debate on a special edition of "Horizon." We hope you turn in next week. That's it for now, thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

David Lujan;Vince Rabago;Felecia Rotellini;

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