Top Cop

Felecia Rotellini and Tom Horne engage in a nasty battle to become the state's attorney general

Felecia Rotellini and Tom Horne disagree on many points as they battle to become the state's next attorney general—including each other's qualifications for the job.

"We need someone with substantial trial experience," Republican Horne says. "I have over 25 jury trials; my opponent has two."

Despite that, Horne adds: "I'm not saying she's unqualified (to be attorney general), but I'm substantially more qualified."

On the other hand, Democrat Rotellini believes Horne isn't qualified to hold the office, period, because of the revocation of his securities-broker license many years ago.

"That was a serious punishment for violating securities laws," Rotellini stresses. "It's a huge blemish on his record, and I think it disqualifies him."

Surprisingly, both candidates cite the issue of job creation among their top priorities.

Rotellini declares on her webpage that as attorney general, she would improve the state's economy by "boost(ing) consumer confidence through meaningful regulation of companies doing business in Arizona."

A former assistant attorney general, Rotellini says she would work to "pass sound, reasonable laws that promote jobs, business development and quality education."

In a telephone interview, Rotellini cites a law regarding the licensing of loan officers that she worked on over the past three years. Not only was it finally enacted by the Republican Legislature, she says; a self-funding account was established in 2009 to finance it.

"Gov. Brewer was very supportive," Rotellini says about the legislation.

For the last eight years, Horne has been the state's elected superintendent of public instruction. On his attorney general campaign website, Horne lists as one of his top three priorities: "Create a climate favorable to economic growth to attract jobs."

When asked during a phone interview how he would do that if elected, Horne gave an example of what he wouldn't do: He claims an optometrist in Phoenix was wrongly charged by current Attorney General Terry Goddard's office for a civil rights violation. Horne says the businessman sent a Spanish-speaking customer who wanted to use a 12-year-old to translate to another optometrist.

"That wouldn't have happened with me as attorney general," Horne says. "We need to work with the business community. I have a long record of doing that."

On the other hand, Horne adds that if laws have been violated by businesses, those cases should be prosecuted.

Another major difference between the candidates is Horne's promise to carry his "conservative principles" into the Attorney General's Office. He explains: "That means I'll support SB 1070 and can defend it in court."

Horne adds that he'll have the Attorney General's Office join with several other states to fight the recently enacted federal health-care-reform legislation.

Rotellini calls herself a "political outsider" and says: "I'm not running for attorney general to move up the ladder of political jobs. I will focus on prosecuting criminals and protecting citizens, not on politics."

"As an outsider," Rotellini adds, "I haven't been a partisan person, and I'll just want to put politics aside."

If elected, Rotellini says, she would "redirect some resources" to further protect Arizona's senior citizens. What would she cut in the office budget to accomplish that goal?

"I'll assess the management organizational structure of the office and see what can be consolidated," Rotellini says. "I want to spend less on management and more for (attorney) boots on the ground."

But she quickly adds that she wouldn't cut spending on the civil rights or consumer-protection divisions in the Attorney General's Office.

On the other hand, Horne says he wants to devote more resources to his top three priorities: securing the border; creating a favorable economic climate; and keeping homes and communities safe. But how will he do that with the state budget in a freefall?

"I want to create positions in the civil division," Horne elaborates. "They've been cut back (in attorneys) so far that they've had to turn away good cases."

Horne says these cuts have produced "a false economy": He thinks that by adding staff, more revenue for the office would be generated from fines and penalties that could then be spent on additional enforcement efforts.

With two attorneys involved in an election campaign, it's no surprise that charges and counter-charges have been flying.

Horne says his opponent has "demonstrated an inability to deal with facts." On his webpage, he blasts her stances on several issues.

For her part, Rotellini declares on her website: "Tom Horne must apologize for his lies." According to her, these include statements he has made about her record.

Given the negative tone of the campaign, and the relatively low profile that the attorney general has in state government, why should voters be concerned about who wins on Nov. 2?

Horne, naturally, thinks it's important. "The attorney general can work to protect us so we're safe in our homes," he says.

Rotellini takes a somewhat different perspective, but arrives at the same conclusion.

"The attorney general is the voice for the everyday working person in Arizona," she says, "as well as an advocate for consumer and civil rights. Plus, the Attorney General's Office represents almost every state agency—so the advice they give impacts people's lives on a daily basis."

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