Mark Brnovich running for Arizona Attorney General

Arizona State FlagIn 2004 and 2005, I lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona as vice president of a non-profit organization. I had the good fortune of meeting Mark Brnovich, who was Director of Constitutional Studies and had the office next door to mine.

Mark had previously been a prosecutor in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office during Rick Romley’s 16-year tenure as County Attorney. The County Attorney’s office is a lot like the Wake County District Attorney’s office, except that in Arizona, the County Attorney also represents various county departments and divisions in civil actions, whereas in North Carolina, the District Attorney solely focuses on criminal prosecutions. Mark had prosecuted serious felonies in Maricopa County, which is where Phoenix is located. Maricopa is gigantic – larger than the state of New Hampshire in size and population.

It was clear when I met Mark that he had ambitions to hold elected office. But he was not just ambitious. He seemed genuinely concerned with public service. He was personable, smart, and genuinely nice. I met his wife, Susan, on a couple of occasions and they had a great relationship.

Mark left to work for CCA, the country’s contractor for private prisons. As someone who has been critical of private prisons, I was not thrilled when Mark went to work for CCA as a lobbyist.

But I was glad when a few years later he told me over lunch that he was joining the United States Attorney’s office as a prosecutor. As an Assistant United States Attorney, Mark won the conviction and helped handle the federal prosecution of four men who had robbed an armored car that was off-loading money at Casino Arizona on the Salt River Indian Reservation near Phoenix. Three of the men pled guilty; one went to trial and was sentenced in 2008.

Mark is certainly a conservative. But he will give the other side a fair listen. At least that’s my experience with him, in contexts in which I saw him debate and discuss issues with people who disagreed with him.

As an aside: Arizona Republican Party politics are a mess. Maricopa County has Republican County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. There have long been questions about Arpaio’s judgment and ethics. He is liked in certain quarters because of his showy “tough on crime” flourishes. He is disliked in a lot of quarters, even among conservatives. Arpaio also allied himself with the former Republican Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who went off the deep end, filing charges against sitting judges, filing RICO actions, filing charges against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Thomas resigned his office, ran for Arizona Attorney General. He lost. Which is a good thing because Andrew Thomas was disbarred in 2012; an assistant lawyer in the County Attorney’s office Rachel Alexander had her license suspended over the episode.

The man who beat Andrew Thomas is Tom Horne. Born in Canada, Horne is a Republican and a former Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction who in the 1970s stipulated to an SEC finding that he “willfully aided and abetted” violations in securities laws. In 2012, the Phoenix New Times, the city’s best newspaper, alleged an office affair which resulted in Horne launching an internal investigation to find the whistleblower who leaked the information regarding the woman’s hiring. That investigation resulted in an investigation by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery that concluded that Horne deliberately broke campaign finance laws.

Horne also has had other trouble with the law: Horne entered a plea of no contest to leaving the scene of a collision with an unattended vehicle, a misdemeanor, after FBI agents (tailing Horne as part of an investigation into Horne’s campaign finance law violations) observed him “hit and run” a parked car. During an 18 month period in 2007 and 2008, Horne also was cited six times for speeding.

Horne is unfit to be an Attorney General.

What Arizona really needs is an honest person with integrity to lead its AG’s Office. Arizona is a Republican state. The governor, secretary of state, and current attorney general (Tom Horne) are Republicans. The Republicans hold supermajorities in the State Senate and State House. Both Senators from Arizona are Republicans.

The Democrats have little chance of putting up a viable candidate for Attorney General. Keeping Tom Horne wouldn’t be wise.

I guess that’s why Mark Brnovich has been endorsed by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Montgomery should know. Montgomery is the one who investigated Tom Horne’s campaign finance shenanigans.

Mark Brnovich is a conservative Republican. But more importantly, he is steady, thoughtful, and reasonable. He is someone who could restore some integrity and honesty to the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.