Republican candidates for Arizona attorney general spar over border, 2020 election in debate

By Tara Kavaler | Arizona Republic

On a crowded stage in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday, the six Republican candidates vying to become the next attorney general sparred over how partisan the role of Arizona’s senior-most legal officer should be.

Former U.S. Attorney’s Office border security section chief Lacy Cooper; Attorney Rodney Glassman; Former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; Karsten Manufacturing corporate counsel Dawn Grove;  Former Maricopa County prosecutor Abe Hamadeh and Eloy lawyer Tiffany Shedd all tried to make the case for why they should be Republican voters’ pick to appear on the November ballot.

Border security and election issues dominated much of the hour-long debate, and most of the candidates said they would not have participated in certifying the 2020 election in Arizona, despite a lack of evidence of any significant problems with it.  

RELATED: Former lawmaker Diego Rodriguez suspends campaign for attorney general

The debate, hosted by Citizens Clean Election Commission and Arizona PBS, was the first and so far only televised debate before the primary election on Aug. 2. It is available to watch online at azpbs.org.

Arizona’s attorney general serves as the state’s legal representative in lawsuits, advises the majority of statewide government bodies on legal affairs and ensures consumer protection laws are followed, among other responsibilities.

The current attorney general, Mark Brnovich, is term-limited out of office. He is running to be the Republican nominee against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Kris Mayes, the presumptive Democratic nominee and former Corporation Commissioner who does not have a challenger in the primary.

With moderator Ted Simons from Arizona PBS, the candidates discussed their vision for the office and whether the position should be politicized. That more philosophical question was raised alongside border security and the veracity of the 2020 election as key issues in the hour-long debate. 

Rodney Glassman is running for Arizona attorney general.

Glassman, a Judge Advocate General’s Corps reservist, argued that the attorney general’s job is to protect people from the government. He pointedly went after Gould,  who highlighted his experience, and Glassman countered that his strength was ideology. The attorney general should be an activist, Glassman said, and he would be a “conservative Republican fighter.”

Gould responded by saying that the job warrants aggressiveness for certain policies, but shouldn’t serve as a vehicle to push ideological beliefs. 

“When it comes to the border, you have to be an activist,” Gould said, referring to a  proactive “law and order” policy. “But in terms of trying to be an activist to twist the law … you don’t weaponize the law and push your preferred political agenda.”

Gould, who was a prosecutor prior to becoming a judge, argued that he had the most legal experience of all the candidates. 

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