On the heels of recent controversies involving Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, several Valley residents are campaigning to replace him.
Phoenix lawyer Art Hamilton and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson announced Tuesday that they’ve formed an exploratory committee in support of Gerald Richard, director of the Phoenix Police Department, for county attorney in 2008.
“I’m very excited, and I’m honored that the committee has gone ahead and filed the paperwork,” Richard said Tuesday.
Richard, a Democrat, said he’s been interested in running for the position since he was a deputy county attorney more than 14 years ago. He passed up the opportunity to run in 2004 so he’d have more time to spend with his daughter, he said.
If elected, Richard said he’d focus on “prosecution over politics” and building consensus among law enforcement, the courts and the public. He named violent crime, illegal immigration and juvenile justice as issues that would be central to his campaign.
The committee’s announcement follows a string of highly scrutinized moves by Thomas, which included his request in October for a senior Superior Court judge to recuse himself from all cases involving the county attorney’s office and aggressive investigations into the Phoenix New Times newspaper and state Attorney General Terry Goddard, to whom he lost the 2002 election for attorney general.
“Gerald Richard is someone who will go after the bad guys,” said Johnson, the committee’s finance chairman, in a prepared statement. “Even more important, he doesn’t define the bad guys as his critics including judges, attorney generals and the newspapers.”
Committee member Karl Gentles said the timing of the announcement wasn’t planned to coincide with the recent disputes over Thomas’ conduct.
“Gerald is a relative newcomer to the political process,” Gentles said. “The exploratory committee really felt it was time to get this together to tell how strong of a chance he has.”
“We’re on our own timeline,” Gentles added.
Richard has been the director of the Phoenix Police Department for 14 years, where he oversees the administrative support division. He earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Arizona State University.
He also received a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, where he is pursuing a doctorate and teaching.
The county attorney’s office had no comment on the announcement Tuesday evening.