2 Hopefuls face hurdles in crowded governor's race

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX (AP) -- Disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas was denied public campaign funding Friday for his bid to win the Republican nomination for governor, and state Sen. Al Melvin said he may drop out of the race because he's far short of getting his own public financing.

The GOP primary race for the nomination would change substantially if Melvin quits and Thomas fails to gather enough additional qualifying contributions to win public funding. That would essentially leave five candidates to battle for the chance to take on Democrat Fred DuVal in November's general election.

The race is widely seen as a slug-fest between four front-runners: state Treasurer Doug Ducey, former Go Daddy executive Christine Jones, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Bennett is the only one of those running with public funding and has received nearly $754,000. Former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, Thomas and Melvin round out the field.

Melvin is far short of the 4,500 qualifying $5 contributions needed to receive more than $750,000 in funding from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. He said he will consider dropping out next week if that doesn't change.

The state's voluntary public funding system requires candidates to collect a certain number of small contributions to show support before they receive public funding.

Constantin Querard, a Melvin campaign consultant, said Friday that Melvin doesn't want to be a spoiler for another conservative candidate if he has no chance to win. He must act by June 27 for his name to be removed from the Aug. 26 primary ballot.

"He's on pace right now to get his money by the middle of August," Querard said. "That's too late to win."

Also Friday, the secretary of state's office said Thomas fell 113 $5 contributions short of the 4,500 needed to win public funding. Thomas would have been awarded more than $750,000 if he had enough contributions.

County recorders checked all the contributions Thomas submitted, and threw out 272 of them, leaving him short. He can submit additional qualifying contributions to meet the threshold before the primary.

Thomas is running after losing his law license in 2012 because of failed corruption investigations that he and county Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched against political opponents. He's consistently said he was the victim of a political witch hunt and didn't do anything wrong.

On Friday, the former prosecutor appealed to supporters in a Facebook post to contribute.

"We have continued to collect $5 contributions since our filing last month, and so we already have many in hand," Thomas wrote. "We will continue our collection efforts and anticipate filing our supplemental amount in the near future."

Thomas responded to a request for comment by referring to his Facebook post.

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