Wed, Feb. 19

AG races still too close to call

PHOENIX -- The contests for attorney general remained too close to call.

As of late Wednesday, Felecia Rotellini was leading David Lujan in the Democratic primary by more than 1,000 votes out of close to 250,000 cast. But the number of ballots remaining to be counted still could make that anyone's race.

The race on the Republican side was even closer, with only a few hundred votes separated Andrew Thomas from front-runner Tom Horne in the GOP race.

And if the margin of difference in either case gets down to 200, then a recount is automatic.

But Thomas already has a theory of who is to blame if he loses: the Obama administration.

Thomas, until recently the Maricopa County attorney, has gained a certain amount of publicity with the investigations he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio conducted of county supervisors and judges.

Those probes led to indictments which eventually were thrown out. Meanwhile the state Bar of Arizona is investigating Thomas' activities. And there are reports the FBI is looking into whether Thomas abused his powers.

"Obviously, what's going on is the Obama justice department wants to smear me so they can install the Democrat as attorney general and scuttle SB 1070,' he said, pointing out the lawsuit the Obama administration filed challenging the law. That resulted in a federal judge last month enjoining the state from enforcing some of the provisions until there can be a full-blown trial on the merits.

"I'm not saying the president is behind it,' Thomas said. And Thomas said he's not even sure there really is an FBI investigation.

"These things have been leaked and there's no actual evidence this is going on,' he explained. "But what they're doing is they're smearing the sheriff and they're smearing me to try to affect the election and frankly to try to protect some of the people you've reported on who were subject to legitimate corruption investigations.'

Thomas never explained how working to defeat him in a Republican primary would help, since Tom Horne, his Republican foe, said he also supports that new state immigration law. He was equally nebulous on the idea of the Obama administration protecting its allies when it was pointed out that several of the county supervisors in his sights are Republicans.

"Here's the bottom line: You have the homeland security chief and the U.S. attorney who are close political allies with people we prosecute,' Thomas said. "That's a fact.'

Thomas denied he was being paranoid.

"No, it's true,' he said, repeating his contention that he's the victim of "smears.'

"And they're coming from the same Justice Department, apparently that wants to tube SB 1070,' Thomas continued.

"They want the Democrat in there as attorney general because the Democrats all oppose SB 1070,' he said. "It's quite a mess of gumbo soup we're dealing with.'

If Horne and Rotellini are the eventual winners, that could become an expensive statewide general election contest. That's because neither took public money, freeing them to spend what they could of their own cash or raise from outsiders.

At last report, Horne had spent $560,000 on his primary bid, more than half of that in personal funds. Rotellini's most recent report pegged her spending at $352,000.

By contrast, both Thomas and Lujan each qualified for public funding of $183,311, plus about $40,000 each was able to raise in "seed money' from private donors.

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