Brnovich, Rotellini vie for attorney general

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Four years ago, Felecia Rotellini came close to beating Republican Tom Horne in the Arizona attorney general race. She is making another run at office this year, but is facing another formidable challenger in Republican Mark Brnovich, who has the backing of big-spending outside groups.

Democrats are working hard on turnout, and with Rotellini's endorsements by many of the state's newspapers and some prominent Republicans, she remains confident of her chances.

For his part, Brnovich practically gushed optimism of a victory in an interview Thursday.

"I said a long time ago when I got into this race that no one was going to outwork me, I'd put my resume up against anybody's and it's all coming to fruition," said Brnovich, who defeated Horne in the GOP primary. "All the hard work and effort is finally paying off."

Republicans look to their statewide registration advantage, public disfavor of President Barack Obama and generally low Democratic turnout expectations as factors that tip statewide races in their favor. But Rotellini is looking to pull GOP voters and other groups that she believes are her natural backers.

"Independents are going to vote for me, Republicans who are fed up with the extremism in their party are going to vote for me, every woman who is pro-choice, and that's a majority of women in Arizona that vote, are going to vote for me because they're ready for change," Rotellini said. "And the LGBT community."

Voters across the state have been inundated with television attack ads - many from outside groups - and both candidates accuse the ads of misleading voters. The Republican Attorneys General Association has pumped $2.4 million into ads attacking Rotellini, trying to tie her to Obama, saying she is soft on border security and hammering home Brnovich's contention that she lacks criminal trial experience.

Brnovich tries to distance himself from those ads, saying they are out of his control. But the association's former president, current Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, campaigned for him before his primary victory, so Brnovich has actively courted the group's support.

Outside groups supporting Rotellini have spent $1.7 million supporting her, on top of her own spending. They contend Brnovich lobbied for private prison companies that wanted to bring violent inmates from other states into Arizona, and that Brnovich's anti-abortion views put him squarely against women's right to make their own health care choices.

Rotellini herself echoes the criticism. "The attorney general's office is too important a job to be in the hands of an ideologue who has a political and personal agenda," she said.

Brnovich is unapologetic about the support he's received, but he said that doesn't mean he'll be unfair.

"I am pro-life, and I am happy I have the endorsement of Arizona Right to Life," he said. "What I have consistently said is I will be the attorney general for all Arizonans and enforce the laws. I will enforce the laws whether I agree with them or not."

Brnovich, a Phoenix native, has served as a prosecutor in Maricopa County, at the attorney general's office and as an assistant U.S. attorney. He was appointed state Gaming Department director by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2009 and stepped down last year to run for attorney general. He has also worked for the Goldwater Institute's Center for Constitutional Government and was a director at a private prison company.

Rotellini touted her background handling complex civil litigation as an assistant attorney general and superintendent of the state banking department. She grew up in Wyoming and moved to Arizona after graduating from law school, then joined the state attorney general's office in 1992 and was named superintendent of the state banking department in 2006. She left government work in 2009 to go into private practice.

Brnovich said Rotellini's lack of criminal experience in the courtroom is a major shortcoming.

"People want an attorney general that has stood toe-to-toe with the baddest of the baddest and can keep our community safe," he said.

Rotellini points out as the state's top law enforcement officer, the attorney general focuses 70 percent of the time on civil cases and consumer protection, and criminal cases are mainly handled by county prosecutors.

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