Andrew Thomas’ opponents face a daunting task. How do they convince Maricopa County voters to throw out of office a popular prosecutor who has set the standard nationally for tough policies on crime and illegal immigration? They’ve already pulled out one of their last trump cards: using their connections in the media to try to smear him.
In just the past couple of weeks, the Tribune carried three separate guest columns bashing Thomas. Two were by Sam Coppersmith, a close ally of one of Thomas’ opponents. Let’s deal with some of these claims before we come to the heart of the matter: Thomas’ record as an effective and visionary prosecutor is second to none. And it’s his record that his opponents must overcome.
A former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, Coppersmith belatedly admits he should’ve disclosed multiple conflicts of interest affecting his recent analysis of Thomas. But in what’s possibly the most hysterically defensive newspaper column ever written, entitled “Andy and me: It’s all about disclosure” (Opinion 2, July 13), Coppersmith still fails to mention the biggest problem facing him and his friend.
While Tim Nelson served as legal counsel to Gov. Janet Napolitano, the governor’s office and state agencies reporting to the governor steered more than $300,000 in legal work to Coppersmith’s law firm. What’s more, Nelson’s wife is a partner at Coppersmith’s firm. She presumably shared in the profits. This sure smells like an obvious conflict of interest.
While Coppersmith completely ignored this issue, even Nelson’s strongest backers in the media eventually will have to deal with this elephant in the room. Coppersmith then compounds his journalistic lapses with a major factual error. He essentially bases his entire article on the claim that Thomas should disclose something to the voters: that he owes Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio a “pretty significant political debt” because Arpaio endorsed him for county attorney in 2004. Oops. Arpaio endorsed nobody for Maricopa County attorney in 2004.
Will the Tribune do its readers a favor and reassign this partisan hack’s column to somebody who can at least get his facts straight and comply with journalistic ethics?
Space limitations don’t allow me to discuss at length Thomas’ record. But a brief summary makes clear why Thomas’ opponents are resorting to hyperventilating, smears and outright false accusations.
No prosecutor in America can claim the record of success and innovation Thomas has established over the past four years. Among his many achievements, he’s instituted arguably the toughest prosecution policies in the nation for violent criminals and sex offenders. His crackdown on repeat offenders has single-handedly sent thousands of additional career criminals to prison. Thomas enforced this policy even over the strong objections of Napolitano, who didn’t want to pay the extra prison costs. After all these reforms, his office still enjoys a 93 percent conviction rate.
Then there’s illegal immigration. When Thomas ran for county attorney in 2004 on a platform of stopping illegal immigration, many elites laughed at him. But now, Napolitano and the rest of the political class are following his lead. Thomas is the only elected prosecutor in the nation who prosecutes illegal immigrants for entering the country illegally. Both of Thomas’ opponents have pledged to end these human-smuggling prosecutions and other basic cooperation with Arpaio.
From Thomas’ leadership on Proposition 100, which ended the right to bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious felonies, to his enforcement of the employer-sanctions law, it’s clear Maricopa County would not be leading the way in fighting illegal immigration if he weren’t in office.
As the campaign heats up, we’ll have to keep a handkerchief handy to wipe off all the mud. But let’s remember two things. There’s an awful lot about Thomas’ liberal opponents that remains unknown, at least for now.
And with his record of accomplishment, Thomas has earned the popularity he enjoys.
Barnett S. Lotstein is a special assistant county attorney and a volunteer for the Thomas re-election campaign.