“Mud-slinging” by a Republican candidate for Maricopa County attorney drew sharp words Thursday from the current top prosecutor.
In a written statement, County Attorney Richard Romley questioned the ethics of candidate Andrew Pacheco and praised candidate Andrew Thomas, who, he wrote, “will make an excellent County Attorney.”
The dispute between Pacheco and Thomas came to a head Thursday when Thomas filed an election complaint, demanding that officials investigate a mass e-mail that accuses Thomas of benefitting from Planned Parenthood fund-raisers.
Pacheco's campaign consultant, Max Fose, admitted to the Tribune last week the e-mail's allegation was false.
“I believed it at the time to be accurate,” Fose said. “I now know it's incorrect.”
Romley, who declined to return a phone call Thursday, said in an e-mail that Pacheco's “attacks” have compelled him to speak out. Romley announced last year he would not seek a fifth four-year term and has endorsed Jerry Landau, a 24-year veteran of the office, for the job.
“The county attorney's office needs a mature, serious leader with unquestioned integrity,” Romley wrote. “Andrew Pacheco's recent conduct and half-truths indicate he may not be that person. Mud-slinging and half-truths have no place in this campaign.”
The six Republican candidates in the race have offered increasingly harsh words about their competitors as the Sept. 7 primary election gets closer. Arizona Republican Committee chairman Bob Fannin asked the six to meet today in Phoenix to encourage them to support the winner of the primary, said candidate Mike Bailey. Fannin did not return a call Thursday.
Whoever wins will face one of two Democrats vying for the post in the Nov. 2 general election.
Thomas, 37, who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 2002, and Pacheco, 34, who has endorsements from Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both R-Ariz., are both considered leaders in the race. The two have sniped at each other in recent weeks, but Thomas went bare-fisted recently with a mailer slamming Pacheco and other candidates.
In the mailer, Thomas alleged Pacheco took a campaign donation from a former Planned Parenthood board member, Jessica Florez. Days later, Fose sent the mass e-mail charging Thomas with taking donations from another Planned Parenthood board member who also hosted fund-raisers for Thomas.
But Fose later said he got it all wrong, blaming the error on a person he would not identify. The woman he said was a board member wasn't, and Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Beth Meyer said the abortion-rights group had never — and would never — hold a fund-raiser for Thomas.
Pacheco, on the other hand, confirmed he took the donation from Florez and said last week he doesn't know whether he'll return it. He disavowed any knowledge of Fose's e-mail, which Thomas said he found “extremely hard” to believe.
Thomas on Thursday asked the Maricopa County Elections Department to look into Fose's use of an allegedly bogus political committee in the e-mail.
Fose's e-mail, following a statement calling Thomas “a two-faced conservative,” lists “Arizona Conservative Truth Watch." No such political committee is registered with the Arizona Secretary of State.
Elections director Karen Osborne confirmed receipt of Thomas's complaint Thursday and said it will be reviewed over the weekend.