Former Department of Gaming director Mark Brnovich filed to run for attorney general, officially giving the embattled Tom Horne a challenge in the Republican primary.
Brnovich’s filing comes less than a week after he stepped down from the Department of Gaming. At the time he submitted his letter of resignation, Brnovich said he hadn’t yet decided on whether he would challenge Horne, but said he believes Arizonans want an attorney general who has integrity, character and a commitment to do the right thing, an allusion to the numerous ethical problems facing Horne.
Brnovich also said he is “uniquely qualified” for the position. He’s worked for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Arizona Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona, and spent four years as a judge pro tem in Maricopa County.
He also served as director of the Goldwater Institute’s Director for Constitutional Government and as senior director at the Phoenix office of the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America.
Brnovich could not immediately be reached for comment.
Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham was dismissive of Brnovich’s challenge.
“He (Horne) is the incumbent. We know he’s had some issues on the press. But he’s doing an amazing job as AG. And frankly, it’ll be nice to have a sparring partner to get ready for the general,” Grisham said. “I don’t believe Brnovich can beat him.”
Horne has been plagued by problems over the past year and a half. He is awaiting the results of an investigation by the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office into allegations that he illegally coordinated with an independent expenditure committee during his 2010 campaign. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which conducted a joint investigation with the FBI, filed charges against him, but a judge later dismissed them after ruling that MCAO didn’t have jurisdiction over the case.
Horne also pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges that he left the scene of an accident after backing into another car in a downtown Phoenix-area parking garage. And the FBI alleged that Horne was having an affair with a then-subordinate whom he hired to a six-figure job at the Attorney General’s Office.
Grisham said she didn’t think the allegations and legal problems would hurt Horne.
“There are answers for all of those things, and those are going to come out,” she said. “The AG’s record is impeccable at work.”
But some Republicans are concerned that Horne will leave the GOP vulnerable in the general election. Felecia Rotellini, the Democrat who lost to Horne by just 3.8 percent in 2010, has filed to run again, and former Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard is considering a run for his old job as well.
Brnovich may have the backing of some high-profile Republicans. In June, he met with former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and longtime GOP operative Steve Twist. Montgomery, who attempted to prosecute Horne on the campaign finance violations, said he believes Horne can’t win the general election, and is actively supporting Brnovich.
Horne, however, is reputed as a tough campaigner and a political survivor who has won tough races in the past. Horne, who was long viewed with skepticism by grassroots conservatives, has shored up his credentials with the GOP base during his three years as attorney general, using his position to advocate for strong conservative positions on issues such as federal environmental regulations, voter identification laws and civil unions for same-sex couples.