July 25, 2004
With the primary election just six weeks away, the verbal jabs are flying as a crowded field of Republican candidates jostle for the seat of Maricopa County attorney.
Mike Bailey, one of the six GOP candidates struggling for voter attention, launched accusations last week against two potential front-runners, Andrew Pacheco and Andrew Thomas.
"Basically Thomas and Pacheco are talking about illegal immigration, and it’s all demogoguery," Bailey said at a news conference. "Their consultants have polls that show illegal immigration is a big thing to Republican voters."
Bailey said he wants to address the problem of illegalimmigrant-related crime by first examining statistics and collecting data to find out how to best address that problem. No one knows the extent of the problem because that data is not being gathered, said Bailey, a former prosecutor of sex crimes and homicides under Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley.
Pacheco called Bailey’s idea "a liberal approach to fighting crime."
A former federal and state prosecutor, Pacheco said he wants to use his experience in prosecuting organized crime to bust up the web of smuggling-related crime.
Pacheco last month also criticized Thomas, who had been quoted in the Tribune saying he wanted tougher plea agreements for illegal immigrants convicted of felonies. Pacheco called that idea "a liberal policy of being soft on crime."
Thomas, who bills himself as the biggest conservative of the bunch, shrugged off that accusation.
"There isn’t any mildly informed citizen in Arizona who would buy that," said Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for state Attorney General in 2002.
Thomas said his overall plan is to use plea agreements less, not more, in prosecuting crimes. But if a plea agreement is going to be given to an illegal immigrant who has returned after being deported or has committed a "particularly serious" offense, that agreement should include harsher punishment than it would for a citizen or legal immigrant, he said.
Thomas has already taken heat for his campaign signs, which read "Stop Illegal Immigration – Vote Andrew Thomas for Maricopa County Attorney."
" ‘Stop illegal immigration’ is a catch phrase that doesn’t tell you much of anything, except I guess he’s trying to pander to one group or another," said Jerry Landau, a 24-year veteran of the county attorney’s office and Romley’s pick for successor.
Landau has lately been pushing a book written by Thomas about conservative values, but not because he thinks it’s a great summer read.
"He has some ideas that clearly way out there," Landau said. "I think people ought to know."
Thomas admits some of his earlier ideas were "clunkers," though he won’t say which ones. But he said Landau has some "bizarre ideas" of his own.
Asked what those were, Thomas said they will come out "in due course."
The two other Republican candidates are Thomas McCauley and Rick Poster. Don Harris and Jonathan Warshaw are competing for the Democratic nomination.