The two candidates for Arizona attorney general spent more time throwing figurative elbows at each other than selling themselves to voters during a debate Wednesday.
Democrat Felecia Rotellini took the first shot, pointing out that Republican Tom Horne lost his license to sell securities in the early 1970s for failing to keep accurate books and keep enough capital on hand.
“I prosecuted securities fraud. He’s committed it,” said Rotellini, a former white-collar prosecutor for the attorney general’s office and a former state financial regulator.
Horne, the state’s school chief since 2003, said Rotellini was distorting a 40-year-old mistake and that she served as Arizona’s superintendent of financial institutions when Arizona suffered a mortgage meltdown.
“I’ll stack my record up against your record anytime of supposedly regulating mortgages when we had the worst period of neglect of mortgages that we have ever had,” Horne said.
When the candidates specified what their priorities would be if elected, they focused on border security.
Horne said he would beef up the attorney general’s presence along the border and more vigorously go after the ill-gotten proceeds of smugglers. He also said Rotellini can’t be expected to crack down on border crimes because she didn’t support Arizona’s new immigration law.
Rotellini, in turn, said she would vigorously defend the law, but believes it won’t solve Arizona’s border woes. She pointed out that she won a settlement from a money transfer service on allegations that some of the company’s outlets failed to comply with reporting laws intended to help combat money laundering and illegal immigration.
When criticizing the investment firm Horne operated while in law school during the early 1970s, she noted Horne failed to disclose in 1997-2000 corporation filings for his law firm that his investment business had gone bankrupt.
Horne said he never committed fraud as Rotellini alleged. He said the loss of his license to sell investments was a result of inaccurate record-keeping. He said after the debate that he didn’t know if investors lost money because of the mistake.
Horne said Rotellini didn’t hold a failing mortgage company accountable and that people lost their life savings as a result.
Rotellini said the company’s failure was well under way when she took over as superintendent of financial institutions.
“It wasn’t on my watch. I was just the unfortunate person to be in charge after years and years of their deceptions,” Rotellini said after the debate, noting she created a mortgage fraud task force when she became the top regulator.