PHOENIX - The newest Republican candidate for governor said Friday he does not believe his having been disbarred for misusing his former office is a political impediment to his election.
Just the opposite, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said in announcing his candidacy for the 2014 race. He said it proves he is willing to take on the powerful and that he was doing his job.
"In Mexico, prosecutors who take on the powerful are shot or blown up," Thomas said. "In Arizona, they are disbarred, and that has to change. And I believe voters will agree with me."
Thomas contends his experience as Maricopa County's top prosecutor will help him stand out in what is shaping up to be a crowded GOP gubernatorial primary. And with two contenders officially in the race, two with exploratory committees and two other elected officials eyeing the office, that could mean victory for any candidate who can land 20 percent of the vote.
"Rising crime and violence, border chaos, broken government, Arizonans face unprecedented challenges and dangers to our way of life," he said. "Tough fights call for tough leaders."
As Maricopa County attorney, he was a key supporter of a successful ballot measure to deny bail to illegal immigrants arrested on serious charges.
He also took the unprecedented step of using Arizona laws against the smuggling of individuals to charge those who were being smuggled into the country with conspiracy. While the sponsors of the legislation said that was not their intent, courts have upheld the move as legal.
Thomas also aligned himself closely with "crime suppression sweeps" conducted by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
But he ran into problems when he began to bring charges against county officials and judges, alleging improper conduct in the construction of a new courthouse tower in downtown Phoenix. That resulted in complaints to the State Bar of Arizona, an investigation and ultimately a ruling by a three-person disciplinary commission of the Supreme Court concluding he had "outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear and disgracefully misused the law."
Former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman has also announced as a GOP candidate, while state Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, and Secretary of State Ken Bennett have formed exploratory committees. Treasurer Doug Ducey and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith also have been eyeing the office.