Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas took his first official step toward launching a 2010 campaign to become the state’s next attorney general by registering an exploratory committee with the Secretary of State’s Office on Sept. 9.
Thomas was re-elected as county attorney in 2008, but said he believed he had achieved his goals of reducing crime and illegal immigration since his election to the office in 2004.
“I’ve largely succeeded in fulfilling my promises to voters in Maricopa County to pursue reductions in crime and illegal immigration and I think that should be expanded statewide,” he said.
Still, Thomas said that he has not committed himself to running an official campaign for attorney general in 2010, which would require him to resign his present position under Arizona’s resign-to-run laws.
In 2008, Thomas ran a bruising campaign against Democratic challenger Tim Nelson, whom he accused of aligning himself with prominent Arizona defense attorneys interested in tearing down the county attorney’s well-known policies that ban many plea bargains in criminal cases.
An independent expenditure group called Arizonans for Public Safety also intended to benefit Thomas last year by producing a particularly negative television advertisement insinuating a Nelson link with attorneys who represented child pornographers and murderers of children.
The advertisement, which was funded entirely by the Arizona Republican Party, ran only once. Thomas, after registering his exploratory committee, said he regarded the ad as “terrible” and said his campaign did not participate in or condone its production.
So far, Thomas could face a Republican primary election for attorney general next September against current Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and District 6 Rep. Sam Crump. Both Horne and Crump have registered exploratory committees.
If all three ultimately decide to officially campaign for attorney general, Thomas said he would expect the race to be contentious.
“I would expect that if it went forward that there would be a spirited race but that has never deterred me in the past,” he said.