ARIZONA ROUNDUP

AG races too close to call

GOP's Thomas and Horne neck-and-neck after their vicious campaign
2010-08-25T00:00:00Z 2010-11-01T17:57:43Z AG races too close to callHoward Fischer and Alexis Huicochea Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A clear winner has not emerged in the bitter and often ugly primary race to become the Republican nominee for state attorney general.

Andrew Thomas and Tom Horne are neck-and-neck in the GOP primary. Fewer than 400 votes separated Horne from Thomas as of Wednesday morning.

The Democrats' is also too close to call. Felecia Rotellini has a slight edge over David Lujan in what was a much more courteous battle than the GOP contest. Vince Rabago, with his underfinanced campaign, was far behind.

What remains to be seen is the tone that the general election will have - and whether the divisive Republican primary will aid the Democratic nominee.

Horne and Thomas went after each other with a vengeance.

Horne, running on nearly $560,000 in private donations, including $300,000 of his own money, attacked Thomas' integrity during his time as Maricopa county attorney.

Horne pointed out that Thomas is under investigation by the State Bar of Arizona - and possibly the FBI - over whether he abused his position in bringing charges against county supervisors and judges. In fact, another Republican county attorney said she believed Thomas was guilty of "abuses of power" and "totalitarianism."

Thomas, whose $224,000 campaign was financed largely with public money, lashed back with his own disclosures that Horne had filed for bankruptcy and signed an admission for the Securities and Exchange Commission saying he had willfully violated its regulations. And while those events go back about 40 years, Horne failed to disclose that bankruptcy filing on more recent, required state reports.

Despite the acrimony, both GOP candidates agreed publicly that they would support whoever won the primary. And Horne said that none of that mudslinging will hurt the survivor.

"The voters care about what the issues are between whoever the Republican nominee is and whoever the Democratic nominee is," said Horne, who is currently state superintendent of public instruction. "And there will be issues," especially illegal immigration, he added.

The race among Democrats, by contrast, was more subdued, concentrating on who had better credentials to lead the office.

All three candidates had served as assistant attorneys general.

Rotellini had the added experience of being named the director of Financial Institutions, which oversees state-chartered banks, mortgage brokers and similar lenders.

Lujan touted his time in the Legislature, including the last two years as House minority leader, saying that political experience made him more qualified.

Rotellini spent the most, at $352,000 at last count, with Lujan having $218,332, including his public financing, and Rabago far behind at $57,000.

• State superintendent of public instruction - Democrat race:

Penny Kotterman secured the Democratic Party nomination for state superintendent of public instruction.

Kotterman had 66 percent of the votes and was handily defeating Jason Williams, with 33 percent.

Kotterman taught in classrooms for 18 years and was president of the Arizona Education Association for six years. She has also worked in development and implementation of education policy in Arizona.

This was Williams' second run for superintendent of public instruction. In 2006, he secured the Democratic nomination in the primary but was defeated by Republican Tom Horne. Williams is a former executive director of Teach for America and is now a consultant for the Roosevelt School District in Phoenix.

• State superintendent of public instruction - Republican race:

John Huppenthal won the Republican nomination and will face off against Kotterman for the Arizona schools chief post.

He defeated Margaret Dugan and Beth Price with 58 percent of the vote. Dugan had 28 percent and Price 13 percent.

Huppenthal is the current state Senate education chairman and has served for 17 years on the state House and state Senate education committees. He has authored and passed more than 200 bills, many related to education.

Dugan is the current deputy superintendent, a position she has held for the last six years. She also has worked as a teacher, a principal and a school administrator. Price has worked in institutional research, assessments and grants in community colleges.

• Arizona Corporation Commission:

Both parties were narrowing the list of who they hope will serve on the commission for the next four years.

Republicans were choosing incumbent Gary Pierce and former state Sen. Brenda Burns for the two open seats. That left Barry Wong, who caused a stir by suggesting that utilities deny services to illegal immigrants, out of the running.

The race between the Democrats, however, showed a close race among Jorge Luis Garcia, David Bradley and Renz Jennings. Two will move on to the general election.

Hanging in the balance could be political control of the commission, which has been in Republican hands since the 1996 election. It currently has a 3-2 GOP makeup.

Republican Kris Mayes, who chairs the panel, cannot seek another term. Pierce, however, wants another four years in the office.

Much of the general election campaign is likely to revolve around who is more committed to the idea of forcing utilities to rely more on renewable sources of energy. Some Republicans say the way to reduce dependence on coal and natural gas, both of which are believed to cause greenhouse gases, is to expand the state's reliance on nuclear generation. That concept, though, is generally opposed by Democrats.

• Secretary of state:

Democrat Chris Deschene will face off against Republican Ken Bennett in the general election.

Bennett ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary, while Deschene defeated Sam Wercinski with 62 percent of the vote.

Deschene is a state lawmaker from Window Rock. He has served one term in the Legislature.

Wercinski, of the Phoenix area, served for two years as the state's Real Estate Department commissioner under then-Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Bennett currently holds the secretary of state post, as he replaced Jan Brewer when she became governor.

• State treasurer:

Democrat Andrei Cherny ran unopposed for state treasurer and will go up against Doug Ducey, who won 41 percent of the Republican vote.

Ducey defeated fellow Republicans Ted Carpenter (13 percent), Barbara Leff (24 percent) and Thayer Verschoor (22 percent).

Cherny served as Arizona assistant attorney general from 2006 to 2009, as a criminal prosecutor in dozens of cases involving multi-million-dollar Ponzi schemes, home mortgage frauds, financial crimes, public officials who abused their powers, and smuggling rings.

Ducey is the former CEO and chairman of Cold Stone Creamery. He cast himself as a political outsider who could bring change through his business experience.

Leff has served 14 years in the Legislature; Carpenter is a retired firefighter from Florence who served as a state representative for eight years; and Verschoor recently chaired the failed "Ax the Tax Campaign" against Proposition 100, the 1-cent-per-dollar state sales tax approved by voters in May.

The Treasurer's Office manages the state's $9.7 billion investment portfolio, including the state's permanent endowment fund.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 573-4175 or ahuicochea@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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