PHOENIX — Three of the six Republicans running for state attorney general said they would not have participated in certifying the 2020 election results in Arizona as did Mark Brnovich — the man they seek to replace.
And the others raised questions about the participation of Brnovich in the process.
“Did you see the ‘2000 Mules’ documentary?” asked Abe Hamadeh, a former Maricopa County prosecutor, during a debate aired Wednesday on KAET-TV, the Phoenix PBS affiliate. That refers to the movie by Dinesh D’Souza that claims it shows evidence that people were stuffing ballot drop boxes.
And Hamadeh, who was deployed during the 2020 election, said he came home to multiple mail-in ballots at his house.
“So for them to constantly gaslight us and tell us that the 2020 was the most safe and secure in history is a lie,” he said.
Private attorney Rodney Glassman went a step farther, taking a swat at Brnovich, who cannot seek reelection and is instead running for U.S. Senate.
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There are existing laws requiring people who register to vote to have two forms of identification, Glassman said. Ditto on laws against “ballot harvesting,” taking someone else’s early ballot to the polls.
“You know who’s in charge of enforcing that?” Glassman asked.
“The attorney general,” he continued. “Mark Brnovich was asleep at the wheel well before 2020.”
Dawn Grove came at the issue from a different direction.
“You have Big Government, Big Tech and media colluding together to bury a story about Hunter Biden that was true and amplify a false story about President Trump and Russia, said Grove who is vice president of Karsten Manufacturing which makes Ping golf clubs. Grove also claimed that there were more people who were entitled by federal law to vote for president without identification than the margin of victory for Joe Biden.
“Those have to be investigated first,” Grove said.
“You have to look at those things before you sign,” she continued, saying she has a “hard time” believing she would have participated in the certification.
Rancher Tiffany Shedd took a more nuanced position.
“That’s a really hard question in 20-20 hindsight,” she said.
Shedd said there are reasons to raise questions, including what she said was the refusal of Maricopa County supervisors to initially provide election information to the state Senate for its review. She also claimed to have witnessed poll workers on the Navajo Nation on Election Day telling people that if they are registered as Democrats it is illegal to vote for Republicans, though she said no one ever was charged.
“And, so, going forward, as attorney general, I will not certify an election unless I know that we have election integrity, that election laws were enforced,” Shedd said.
But the whole idea of an attorney general not participating in certifying an election based on various claims of fraud an irregularities bothered Andrew Gould, a former justice of the Arizona Supreme Court who resigned to run for attorney general.
“What you have to do as a judge, what you have to do as an attorney general, is you have to go on what the facts are,” he said.
“You don’t go on what you feel or what you think,” Gould said. And he said he does not know that Brnovich had any of the information in November 2020 that he may have now.
Still, Gould said there might have been a role for Brnovich.
“I think he might have been able to get an injunction to hold up the certification process,” giving time for an expedited review, he said. And Gould said if that would have produced “substantial evidence” of problems, “then I wouldn’t have signed it.”
And Lacy Cooper, a former state and federal prosecutor, said Arizona needs an attorney general who investigates election fraud “while the election is happening and not waiting until after the fact.”
But Cooper said that, as a witness to the certification, she would have signed.
While each candidate at the debate sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission said they would do more to secure the border, their approaches differ.
Glassman said he wants to have what he presumes will be a Republican-controlled legislature pass its own immigration laws.
Gould, however, pointed out they did that — in 2010 — only to have much of what was approved struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court which concluded that states have no legal role in dealing with those who cross the border illegally.
“That’s a bad idea out of the gate,” Gould said.
Hamadeh, however, said that shouldn’t deter the state from trying again. He pointed out that the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn the 49-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade that said women have a federal constitutional right to have an abortion.
“So I think there are ways to be creative and challenge the status quo,” Hamadeh said.
Grove said she believes there is more the attorney general can do to guard the border. And she supports having the governor declare that Arizona is being invaded.
That actually stems from a legal opinion by Brnovich earlier this year saying that idea that Gov. Doug Ducey can declare that the actions of drug cartels and smuggler on the border constitute an “invasion” that would allow him to use the National Guard to “engage in war.”
Ducey never responded to the idea.
“We could expedite those prosecutions, get people deported and make sure that we keep Arizona safe,” she said.
Gould questioned the legality of all of that.
Instead, he wants to use existing state laws that allow police to arrest people for trespassing on state and private land. And once arrested, he said, they can be searched and subject to other state laws, like drug smuggling.
Shedd, who owns more than 1,200 acres of land in Pinal County, said that’s not workable. She said it requires posting of signs every 75 feet. And then there’s the hassle of trying as a private landowner to work with prosecutors to get people charged and convicted.
Cooper, who was the border security section chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, also said Gould’s plan is flawed. Instead, she said, there are ways for an attorney general to force the government to do its job, like detaining people who enter the country illegally.
Gould sniffed at that suggestion, pointing out that Brnovich has filed multiple lawsuits against the Biden administration over border policies in the past two years.
“Has anyone seen any change down there?” he asked.
Glassman and Gould took a few swipes at each other.
Gould pointed out he has been a lifelong Republican, unlike Glassman who was a Democrat on the Tucson city council and ran in 2010 against John McCain.
Glassman, in turn, derided Gould’s claim that his 31 years of experience as a lawyer makes him uniquely qualified. Gould said it’s like someone needing heart surgery where “you want someone with experience who can fix the problem.”
“You don’t want to have surgery from someone, the last time they did it, was 30 years ago,” Glassman responded, noting that Gould has been on the bench since 2001.
Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has been reporting since 1970 and covering state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at “@azcapmedia” or email firstname.lastname@example.org.