Republican Bill Montgomery of Gilbert has to run a nearly perfect campaign to have any chance of upsetting incumbent state Attorney General Terry Goddard.
And Montgomery has been doing just that, at least until late September when he became the target of a formal complaint from the Goddard campaign related to the filming of a television commercial. Montgomery was able to convince fellow Republicans early on that he was the best choice to challenge Goddard. So Montgomery didn’t have any competition in the primary and has spent months focusing on the Democrat and former Phoenix mayor.
Montgomery also linked his campaign to the eventual winner of the Republican primary for governor, Len Munsil, a boost to Montgomery’s own visibility and credibility. In turn, Munsil has given Montgomery credit for being the first to highlight Arizona’s high crime rate as a key campaign issue, and the two are collaborating on strategies for reducing illegal immigration if either one is elected.
Montgomery’s central theme is Goddard has pursued his own political ambitions instead of acting the best interests of Arizona. In the process, Montgomery argues, Goddard has ignored his obligation to defend state laws even when Goddard personally disagrees with them.
That is what makes Goddard’s complaint to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission so interesting. As reported in stories by the Tribune’s Christian Richardson and Gary Grado, a political consultant hired by Montgomery’s campaign filmed an ad on Sept. 12 in Gilbert about illegal immigration. Gilbert resident David M. Waggoner says he spoke that day with four men paid to appear in the ad who admitted they were illegal immigrants, and he went to Goddard’s campaign after learning about Montgomery’s tough talk on the issue.
Montgomery says he wasn’t involved in hiring the “actors” and he didn’t know if the political consultant or film company followed federal employment laws. To us, that sounds like Montgomery is trying to pass the buck, which he has loudly accused Goddard of doing on other matters.
Grado also reported that Montgomery arranged with Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman for a city police car to be used in the ad with a promise that the town logo would remain out of sight. But state law strictly forbids the use of government property to influence an election, something that should be obvious to any candidate for attorney general.
This tempest might fade quickly and not affect the outcome on Nov. 7. But Montgomery can’t afford to become know as the candidate who holds his opponent to higher standards than his own campaign operates by.