Vote 2014: Arizona Attorney General Debate

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Democrat Felecia Rotellini and Republican Mark Brnovich will present their case as to why voters should elect them as the next Arizona Attorney General in another Arizona Horizon debate.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special "Vote 2014" edition of "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate sponsored by Clean Elections. We'll hear from candidates competing for the office of Arizona Attorney General. As with all of "Arizona Horizon's" debates, this is not a formal exercise, it's an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity for give and take between candidates for one of the state's most important offices. As such, interjections and even interruptions are allowed, provided that all sides get a fair shake. We'll do our best to see that that happens. The attorney general is the chief legal officer for Arizona, representing state agencies and taking on cases involving civil rights, consumer protection and complex business fraud. Two candidates are competing to be Arizona's top lawyer. They are Republican Brnovich, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Arizona Department of Gaming director, and Democrat Felecia Rotellini who has served in the civil and criminal divisions of the Attorney General's Office. Each candidate will have one anoint opening and clothe closing statements. We drew numbers, we decided this ahead of time, and Felecia Rotellini gets the honor.

Felecia Rotellini: I wish to return the Attorney General's Office to its core mission. That's not a political job; it's a public safety job. When I'm attorney general I'll rise above partisan politics and be an independent watchdog for the people of Arizona. I know this can be, because I worked in that office for 13 years under Republicans and Democrats, in the civil and the criminal divisions. I was the lead lawyer for the State against Arthur Anderson for the failed audits for the Baptist Foundation, where we were able to return over $217 million to victims of that fraud. I will be looking at consumer fraud, protecting our children, going after sex trafficking and making sure we take politics out of the Attorney General's Office.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. For our next opening statement now we turn to Mark Brnovich.

Mark Brnovich: Hi, I'm Mark Brnovich, I'm running for Attorney General. Some you have may not know me, and others may have seen our signs and not known how to pronounce my name. That's okay; this is my first time running in politics, running for anything. I graduated from Shadow Mountain High School and went on to ASU. Met my wife while we were both working as prosecutors, raised my family here. I have spent my career working as a prosecutor, prosecuting the baddest of the bad, aggravated assaults, kidnappings; I've stood toe to toe with the baddest of the bad. I've prosecuted in the federal system, crimes against our Native American communities. My commitment and promise to you is the same one I made to my family. I'll work hard every day to keep our family safe.

Ted Simons: Thank you both. Felecia, why you and not him?

Felecia Rotellini: Well, because I want to take politics out of the Attorney General's Office and I will not be an ideologue and my opponent will be. I've had 20 years of working across party lines, protecting and serving the people of Arizona. My opponent has already stated he will make sure the Attorney General's Office promotes an anti-choice agenda, he's on record. That's not the law of the land. Most Americans believe women have the right to choose. That's what an ideologue does, not what a leader does.

Mark Brnovich: I think we're going to probably see this lot tonight. Unfortunately my opponent is mischaracterizing my position. I've spent my entire career working with law enforcement keeping our community safe. I've had a security clearance, I served in the military. I never asked anyone whether they were Republican or Democrat. Not as a federal prosecutor. I worked with tribal communities to resolve problems and so many of the issues of right and wrong -- they are not issues of right and left, they are issues of right and wrong. The problem is my opponent wants to make this a partisan race. She wants to make this about creating a straw man when it's simply not true.

Felecia Rotellini: Let's be clear here. Mr. Brnovich has sent an email to his database that he says he will be a pro-life attorney general. That's not the law of the land, and that's not the most important thing happening in the attorney general's office. In fact, the job of the attorney general is to prosecute financial fraud and protect Arizona families. I want to point out that Mr. Brnovich took a break from being a prosecutor and made Arizonans less safe. Efforts as a lobbyist and state director for the private prison system. In 2006 he worked to kill a piece of legislation that would have prevented the most dangerous criminals from coming to Arizona.

Ted Simons: Please.

Mark Brnovich: I'm glad this issue came up, Ted, this is something we need to talk about. One of the things I think is so unfortunate about politics today, so many want to tear folks down instead of bringing them together. My opponent started to run an ad today which completely mischaracterizes my past positions. I have spent years putting people in prison and trying to keep people there, this isn't a partisan issue. Democratic and Republican governors have used prisons to incarcerate individuals. We have people in private facilities that are Arizona felons. If the legislature doesn't want to build more prisons we have to have a place to incarcerate people.

Ted Simons: But should voters be comfortable with someone as the attorney general who used to work for a private prison firm?

Mark Brnovich: I know more about prisons. That's one of the reasons I've put a lot of people there. I'm endorsed by the Arizona peace officers association. I haven't accepted sunny contributions from the private prison folks but my opponent has accepted contributions from people like Dennis Deconcini, she's comfortable taking money from the private prisons. But now she wants to criticize Arizona for using those facilities.

Felecia Rotellini: Simply because I get a contribution from somebody I'm somehow going to be beholden to someone. Mr. Brnovich can't get around the fact that his judgment was such that for profit, for his own economic profit, I thought it was better to kill a piece of legislation that would bring killers, rapists into the state of Arizona. Now he's saying he wants to make Arizona safer. That doesn't make Arizona safe. We know there have been escapes from the private prisons in 2007 and 2010. I'm owning that ad. You, Mr. Brnovich, are hiding behind the special interest groups that got you here today with the $700,000 where the Koch Brothers did against Tom Horne. You can't say you're going to be fair.

Ted Simons: Let's let him respond.

Mark Brnovich: I think my opponent didn't answer the question. She has no problem taking money from the private prison industry or working in the banking industry or representing people that she used to regulate. She doesn't see any hypocrisy or contradiction in that.

Felecia Rotellini: I disagree, I disagree.

Ted Simons: You've connected him now to private prison and said that's a problem.

Felecia Rotellini: Yes.

Ted Simons: There are connections as well between you and a variety of folks in Arizona. Why is that not a problem?

Felecia Rotellini: Because I have received most of my contributions from over 4800 individuals. And the average contribution is under $300. My supporters range from Republican, Democrat and independent. It's ridiculous to think that simply because I have received a contribution from someone that that somehow is going to make me beholden to them.

Mark Brnovich: I'm just using the same logic she's trying to use. At the end of the day what we need to appreciate is there are 7,000 Arizona inmates in private facilities. If my opponent is so against private prisons, she needs to recognize two things. The biggest users of private prison it is in Arizona is the Obama administration. There are people here on immigration holds…

Felecia Rotellini: There you go, another way I'm not an Obama ally. Can you believe it, Mr. Brnovich?

Mark Brnovich: If I could finish, Ted.

Ted Simons: Please.

Mark Brnovich: The second thing, my opponent should answer the question. Where do you want these 7,000 inmates to go? I don't want them released from prison. I also don't want the legislature to spend hundreds of millions that should be used for education to fund additional prisons.

Ted Simons: Where do the inmates go?

Felecia Rotellini: The inmates he allowed into the state through this legislation are from Hawaii and from Alaska. So we're not talking about private prisons where we're putting Arizona convict. We're talking about private prisons that are here and we're importing the worst of the worst. The legislation he killed would have simply prevented those kind of criminals from coming to Arizona.

Ted Simons: All right. We've got this all started by me asking why you and not him. Why you and not her?

Mark Brnovich: Ted, because I think it's important to have an attorney general that's going to work hard every day to protect our families and communities. As I said, as someone that grew up here, that's worked as a prosecutor in both the federal and state courts, I'm the only person that's handled violent felony cases. I'm not only person that's actually tried jury trials in both the federal and state system of criminal cases. I'm the only person that's actually tried federal corruption cases. I'm the only person that's tried cases for Native Americans, including Indian casinos. With everything going on in this country and the Obama administration about to grant amnesty to millions of people.

Felecia Rotellini: Ted, may I respond?

Mark Brnovich: And also have the experience to hit the ground running from Day 1.

Felecia Rotellini: Mr. Brnovich is running for county attorney. That's where he got his experience of doing street crime. That's not the jurisdiction of the attorney general. You said so in your opening remarks. The job is to do statewide financial fraud. It's great if he wants to work in the county attorney's office. Let me set the criminal record straight. I was doing jury trials in the civil arena before Mr. Brnovich was out of law school. He was in the financial fraud and public corruption section of that office. We didn't do street crimes. We did complex fraud. I then spent hundreds of hours in the civil division doing trials where I returned hundreds of millions of dollars to victims of fraud. Let me just finish by saying: The Arizona republic, a very conservative editorial board, looked at my record, looked at his record and endorsed me. And in fact said that my record and my background is more germane and more relevant to what the Attorney General's Office does.

Ted Simons: Let's get a response.

Mark Brnovich: Yeah. You know, I think as someone that's been involved in hiring, firing, running an agency and actually keeping it under budget, one of the first things we talk about, you look at the resume. There's a reason why my opponent doesn't want to talk about her resume and complete lack of criminal trial experience, complete lack of handling any violent crime. When we're going toe to toe with the cartels, do you want someone that needs on-the-job training? Or someone who stood in the courtroom and faced them down and won the convictions? I was just meeting with some state sheriffs in Yavapai County. When there are complex cases including homicides and aggravated assaults, those cases do come to the Attorney General's Office. Complex crime cases also come to the Attorney General's Office.

Felecia Rotellini: Let me go back to the fact that Republicans like Rick Bromley, the former Maricopa County attorney who gave Mr. Brnovich his first job.

Mark Brnovich: Actually my first job was delivering papers --

Felecia Rotellini: Excuse me. -- is endorsing me. The fraternal order of police. Again, Mr. Brnovich is talking about street crimes. Not the types of crimes that are prosecuted in the Attorney General's Office. And let me tell you something else. Most of what the Attorney General's Office does on the civil side, representing state agencies. When I was in the Attorney General's Offices I represented three different state agencies. I have the experience and the knowledge of the business community that will make meet better attorney general. And so does the "Arizona Republic."

Ted Simons: The Attorney general is obliged to protect all of Arizona's laws. Are you prepared to do that, even if some of those laws you disagree with or if you think they are unconstitutional?

Mark Brnovich: Absolutely. The law is what the law is. Bob Corbin, Arizona's longest serving attorney general who endorsed me, he is very fond of saying, what does the law say. I will be there not only to defend Arizona's laws regardless of what he personally think but I will defend us against the overreach of the Obama administration. When we see what's happening, if you don't like the law, change the legislature. We have an initiative process. You can change the Governor. As attorney general you have to enforce the law period.

Ted Simons: Even laws you don't agree with?

Felecia Rotellini: I will enforce them.

Ted Simons: If 1062 comes around the bend again, are you going to protect that?

Felecia Rotellini: I will defend it. It's not that it is unconstitutional, and not in the best interests of the people of Arizona. That is an opportunity for the attorney general to show a leadership position. That's the reason why Mr. Brnovich is an ideologue. He has the backing of the Center for Arizona Policy, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-immigration groups that are hopeful that he'll get in there, they need someone like him who will do their bidding, and make sure these ideological laws that are bad for the state, that governor Brewer vetoed should not happen. We are talking about why Mr. Brnovich is wrong for the office.

Mark Brnovich: This is almost comical quite frankly. Frankly, what I said with 1062, when I was asked about it. As attorney general I would defend the law. My opponent said it was unconstitutional and kind of hemmed and hawed. She's spending a lot of money on polling. I think that's the problem Arizonans have with politicians. One, they just try and attack the other person. Then they try to use polls to tell people what they want to hear. I do know this. When President Obama sued us over 1070, she was running for attorney general in 2010. When her union bosses wanted to boycott Arizona, she said nothing.

Felecia Rotellini: That is not true. That is not true.

Ted Simons: Let's go to the connection and then wanting to boycott Arizona. What's that all about?

Felecia Rotellini: You know, I don't know. I was on record since -- at the very beginning that I would defend SB 1070. In the debates on your show, I said that. And you know what? You have misrepresented me in so many ways, Mark. To say I'm an Obama ally is just ridiculous. You know who's reading the polls? It's Mr. Brnovich. He ran against Tom Horne because he was the second most unpopular person in the state. Now he's running lower than Mr. Horne. This is a man who follows the polls. This is a man who, other than the dark money coming in, would not be here today.

Mark Brnovich: No one worked harder in the primary than I did. A 1, 2% chance of beating someone in your own party. I took it on because it was the right thing to do. It was something we did not -- something somebody else did. When I was the prosecutor there was an old saying. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it must be a duck. My opponent can say what she wants. She became a Democrat when Jimmy Carter was President. You yourself had given money to people like Al Franken, and others. A who's who of a Rogue's gallery.

Felecia Rotellini: Let's go back to the board of the "Arizona Republic" that called Mr. Brnovich out for doing this very thing, for being political, for being a typical politician. By trying to say that I'm an Obama ally when my 20-year record in the trenches is all about working across party lines and doing the right thing for the people of Arizona.

Mark Brnovich: She was unwilling to stand up and criticize Obama when he sued Arizona.

Felecia Rotellini: Let's talk about the issues. Could we talk about the issues?

Ted Simons: We're trying to talk about the issues. One of the issues I've heard a couple times from you is this idea of federal overreach. What does that mean?

Mark Brnovich: I think one of the things the attorney general must do is represent Arizona and the overreach of the federal government. In states like Arizona where so much of our land is controlled by the federal government, we need an attorney general that understands property rights. I have written amicus briefs and I'll very familiar. It's important that we have an attorney general that's going to fight back. A mill lost 17 jobs because the bureaucrats of the federal government won't let us thin our forests. If you don't thin your forests you have bigger forest fires. Whether it's the endangered species act, forest management, or new rules promulgated by the Obama administration, that we need to have an attorney general that will fight back.

Ted Simons: Lip service.

Felecia Rotellini: Lip service, Mr. Brnovich during the primary was giving lip service to going after the profit. Before the primary I testified in front of the Arizona House Energy Committee on my opposition to the EPA rules, the clean power plan. I met with the stakeholders, the utilities. I submitted my testimony and I'm on record. That's what the attorney general is supposed to do. Go on record. Be substantive and take action. I have always stated that I will go after the EPA for these rules. They are Draconian. I know better than anyone the federal government overreach from my year of regulating the banking community. I had to face down the federal government and I've seen up close and personal the one size fits all arrogance. Mr. Brnovich continues to lie about my positions on these things. We've been in debates for several weeks now. I've never wavered from the fact that I was going to fight the federal overreach. I don't support his alleged executive order that he may do, in lieu of comprehensive immigration reform. That's where we should go.

Ted Simons: Immigration in general, your position on this and your position as the attorney general.

Mark Brnovich: I will tell you what, Ted. No one understands immigration better than I do. My mother immigrated from the form her Yugoslavia where she lived through the horrors of World War II and com in addition. We were instilled with a great sense that we have an obligation to give something back to this country. I think immigration is something this country needs. But at the same time, we are a nation of laws. We must clear the border.

Felecia Rotellini: There is someone talking from an ideological standpoint. He has yet to answer what his plan will be to secure the border.

Mark Brnovich: Last time we were on here I think with Mr. Horne in one of the debates, I've made it very clear, the attorney general must use that bully pulpit, the office to force the federal government to do its job. Whether that's suing the federal government for not securing the border, more importantly I have a history of going after the gangs and the cartels. We need to make sure we're going after the cartels that are smuggling drugs and people into this country. We have to use Title 13, the criminal statutes.

Felecia Rotellini: Ted, may I answer this question?

Ted Simons: Okay.

Felecia Rotellini: I have already gone after the companies that have facilitated illegal immigration as superintendent of the financial institutions. In my first eight months as superintendent, I find the money transmitters, the folks who sent wires to the Coyotes, over $3.5 million for facilitating human smuggling and violation the rules designed to stop the flow of cash to human smugglers. As top prosecutor I'm going after the drug cartels. Secondly, do not interrupt me, Mr. Brnovich. I have the floor. Secondly we have to go over -- crush their financial backbones. I know how to follow the money. We need to use the rico laws and forfeiture laws to hit them where it hurts and shut down the flow of money.

Mark Brnovich: They are the same ideas I just said about going after the cartels and the financial part. My question was do you not think the cartels are violent. She tries to minimize my experience.

Felecia Rotellini: Minimizing the fact that going after dangerous criminals is the job of the county attorneys who have original jurisdiction for that. There's over 500 assistant county attorneys. In both the Pima County and Maricopa County that do those violent crimes. What he doesn't want to touch is the fact that he's never prosecuted financial fraud. He's never returned moneys to victims of fraud. He's never shut down scammers. He has never worked in the areas that are the economic drivers of the economy.

Mark Brnovich: You know what; I was an assistant United States attorney. I've gone after corrupt public figures. I've handed tax evasion crimes, financial crimes involving casinos. My owe bone does not want to talk about that she's never tried a criminal case in her career. She talks about the department of financial institution stuff, maybe she should start to play why when we start there we were 21st in mortgage fraud and we went to fourth.

Felecia Rotellini: This is a classic of Mr. Brnovich. What he does, he goes after people with a barrage of accusations. Then he has to retract. When he was the director of department of gaming he had a debacle in the global access scattered shower -- global access case. That case his department bungled. He had outrageous allegations regarding people that he denied licenses to. They went after -- he could not respond and he sued -- let me say this again -- Here what's Mr. Brnovich D. he refused to provide public record to people who had the right to find out the allegations against him. He was sued in federal court and the judge ordered him to pay over $100,000.

Ted Simons: We've got to go quickly. We're running out of time.

Mark Brnovich: Absolutely. This is a case that I inherited, bungled from the previous administration of the Attorney General's Office. There were law enforcement records we were not supposed to have, the department did. I thought it was important to protect law enforcement and protect those records because they weren't records of our agency.

Felecia Rotellini: He ended up letting the people he believed should never have a license to gaming, they got a license.

Ted Simons: Final word.

Mark Brnovich: My opponent is still oh not going to explain why mortgage fraud increased while people lost money.

Felecia Rotellini: When I was the head of that department I did more for mortgage fraud than anyone else in the country.

Ted Simons: We've got to get to closing statements. Eastern candidate will now give a one-minute closing statement. We start with Mark Brnovich.

Mark Brnovich: Thank you, Ted. It is my pleasure to be here. I would urge people to go to my website. You can find out more about the campaign. Frankly, sometimes some of these accusations, my opponents create a website. She's running negative ads because she didn't want to talk about her record, she wants to attack me. They want an attorney general who's going to work hard every day to protect our families and our communities. I grew up here and got in this race not because I wanted to be somebody, but because I wanted to protect our families and our communities. I've had a history of working as a prosecutor, I'm a member of the State Parks board, I've served in the military. I have the support of the Arizona chambers, national independent business association; we have a broad coalition of support. I would like your vote, as well. I urge you to join me. God bless you, thank you.

Ted Simons: For our final closing statement we turn to Felecia Rotellini.

Felecia Rotellini: I have been close to two decades prosecuting criminals. I've thrown people in jail and I've returns hundreds of millions to victims of fraud. Protecting and serving the people of Arizona is my passion. That's why I have the endorsements of the Arizona police association, the Fraternal Order of Police. I have the firefighters; all of the sworn law enforcement groups in the state of Arizona are endorsing me. And that's why I have the endorsements of business groups, Republicans and independents, like Maricopa County attorney Rick Bromley who, again, knows my background and experience and is endorsing me. This is a crucial election. You've heard it from Mr. Brnovich. He wants to skirt around the issues. He's an ideologue. He will use it for the dark money special interests that will do his bidding.

Ted Simons: That is it. Thank you both, thank you for joining us, as well. That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

Felecia Rotellini:Democratic Candidate, Arizona Attorney General; Mark Brnovich:Republican Candidate, Arizona Attorney General;

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