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Christine Jones decided to get into politics after retiring from her job as general counsel for GoDaddy.com, the Scottsdale-based Internet giant that licenses domain names. Jones started working for the company in 2002, when it was still a start-up with a few dozen employees and left after it was sold in 2011.
Jones said she considered running for Congress or the U.S. Senate in recent years, but the timing wasn't right. But when she saw the open governor's seat, she decided it was time to get into the fray.
She said she's in the race because she has a vision unlike the other candidates.
"I really believe that in Arizona, we have an opportunity to cast a vision for the future, to focus on economic development and developing excellent models of education and enforcing immigration law," Jones said. "Just because I have this unique blend of life experiences and a desire to apply my leadership to the good of the state, I'm running for governor."
Jones' platform includes promises to grow jobs, cut taxes, protect the U.S. Constitution, oppose Common Core and battle illegal immigration. That final topic is a big focus on the campaign; last week, Jones released a border-protection plan that included a call for National Guard troops on the border and more state funding for Southern Arizona sheriffs, border-wall construction and surveillance cameras to detect border crossers, earning the endorsement of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
"Our immigration laws have long been mocked," Jones said when she released her plan. "What's happening now is simply corruption. As Governor, I'll disrupt the corruption."
Jones has come under fire from various sides. She's been accused of padding her résumé for claiming ot have been a Los Angeles prosecutor when she was working as a clerk in the L.A. District Attorney's Office. A independent campaign committee that is supporting fellow Republican candidate Doug Ducey, Conservative Leadership for America, aired a TV spot saying that Jones was never an employee of the D.A.'s office, which was technically true, although she did work with prosecutors while attending law school in California.
She's also come under fire from a South Dakota-based political non-profit, Veterans for a Strong America, which has aired ads targeting Jones for a 2012 prediction that Hillary Clinton "will continue to stand out as a capable and respected leader." The resulting TV ad noted that Jones made her complimentary comments about Clinton after the attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
The veterans group has ties to Arizona political operative Sean Noble, a Ducey ally who has fiercely defended the rights of the Koch Brothers and similar groups to launch anonymous attacks in the name of preserving American values.
Frank Riggs relishes being in the role of the underdog.
"I'm comfortable in that role," Riggs said in a recent interview with the Tucson Weekly.
The Army vet and former police officer had an unusual career in Congress in the 1990s, representing a Democratic district in California's Napa Valley area; he won his seat in 1990, lost it in 1992, won it back in 1994 and then held onto it for two terms before launching an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 1998. He still enjoys telling stories about the House Bank overdraft scandal and his vote in favor of Bill Clinton's impeachment.
In 2002, Riggs moved to Maricopa County to head up an organization dedicated to providing education-management services for charter schools. He flirted with a gubernatorial run in 2006 but did not meet the five-year residency requirement.
Although he is not well known in Arizona political circles, Riggs decided to get into the crowded gubernatorial race because as he surveyed the field, he "didn't see anybody with my proven leadership experience and ability. I'm running against some wealthy establishment candidates with very, very thin records."
Riggs said that as governor, he'd focus on securing the border, opposing Common Core learning standards, reducing taxes, reversing Gov. Jan Brewer's expansion of Medicaid and, in general, blocking the "Obamanization" of Arizona.
Two years after losing a 2002 statewide race for attorney general, Andrew Thomas won the post of Maricopa County attorney. During his six-year reign, Thomas forged an alliance with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and stretched the law to its limit to pursue indictments against undocumented immigrants.
He also used the prosecutorial power of his office to launch investigations into his political enemies, including Maricopa County officials, judges and members of the media. Newspaper publishers were locked up, judges faced trumped-up charges and county supervisors were indicted.
Thomas stepped down from his post in 2010 to again run for Arizona attorney, but he narrowly lost to current AG Tom Horne in the GOP primary. After his loss, Maricopa County settled lawsuits with some of the targets of his investigations for millions of dollars and the state bar stripped him of his law license for misusing the power of his office to pursue charges against his political foes.
One theme of Thomas' campaign has been the notion that he was unfairly targeted by the state's corrupt political system and the Obama administration; as he puts it on his website: "Why did liberal judges and their henchmen attack Andrew Thomas' law license for five years? Because he's a warrior who took on the establishment and stopped illegal immigration."
The issue of illegal immigration is also at the top of Thomas' campaign platform. At a forum last week, he declared that "very soon, all of our best-laid plans regarding health care, education and other issues frankly become meaningless. That is because this state is being overrun by foreign nationals who are exposing us to diseases, who are challenging our basic way of life and very few people are willing to stand up and do anything about it.
Thomas qualified for Clean Elections funding last week, which means he'll have $753,000 to spend on his primary campaign.