PHOENIX -- The candidates for attorney general openly derided the other's experience Tuesday night, each telling viewers of a televised debate their foe is unqualified for the office.
Republican Mark Brnovich pointed out that Democrat Felecia Rotellini never has taken a criminal case to trial.
"Folks expect someone with experience because the stakes are too high,'' said Brnovich who had been a federal prosecutor. "With everything going on in this country and the Obama administration about to grant amnesty to millions of people, we need an attorney general who's going to push back against the federal government and also has the experience to hit the ground running from Day One.''
Rotellini, in turn, derided Brnovich's experience as "doing street crimes.''
"That's not the jurisdiction of the Attorney General's Office,'' she said.
"The job of the attorney general is doing statewide financial fraud,'' Rotellini continued, pointing out that virtually all criminal cases are handled by county attorneys.
"He's never prosecuted financial fraud,'' she said.
"He's never returned money to victims of fraud,'' Rotellini continued, citing her own experience in the Attorney General's Office and head of the state Department of Financial Institutions which oversees banks and mortgage companies. "He's never shut down scammers.''
Brnovich shot back that if she were such a good regulator the state would not have gone from 21st in mortgage fraud in the nation to No. 4.
Rotellini, who repeatedly interrupted Brnovich during the half-hour debate on KAET-TV, also took off after his experience as a lobbyist for the private Corrections Corporation of America, something she said "made Arizonans less safe.''
She said Brnovich is on record as opposing 2006 legislation which would have precluded private prison companies from bringing in certain violent criminals from other states. The result, she said, is there are private prisons in Arizona housing inmates from Hawaii and Alaska.
Brnovich defended his role with CCA, saying there's a legitimate place for private prisons, with about 7,000 of Arizona's own inmates housed in such facilities. And then he turned the tables on Rotellini, saying if she's so opposed to them she should not have accepted campaign donations from former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini and Anne Mariucci, a former regent, both who actually sat on the CCA board.
Her response was to say that such contributions do not make her beholden to what donors want.
But Rotellini said voters should be concerned about Brnovich being backed by social conservative groups like Arizona Right to Life -- and the fact that he boasted of that during his Republican primary fight against incumbent Tom Horne.
"Mr. Brnovich is an ideologue,'' she charged, saying he is backed by "the anti-women, anti-gay, anti-immigration groups that are hopeful that he'll get in there because they need someone like him who will do their bidding.''
And she charged that means he would use his office to trim the right of women to terminate a pregnancy.
"That's not the law of the land,'' Rotellini said, arguing that "most Americans believe women have the right to choose.''
Brnovich acknowledged he is opposed to abortion. But he said he will defend the laws approved by the Legislature without regard to his own personal beliefs one way or the other.
"As the attorney general, the law is what the law is,'' Brnovich said. But he added that also means he will "defend us against the overreach of the Obama administration,'' whether on environmental regulations or challenging Arizona's laws dealing with illegal immigration.
Brnovich said he understands immigration, saying his mother came here from what used to be Yugoslavia after living through World War II and then the communist government there.
"Immigration is something that this country needs,'' he said.
"But at the same time we are a country of laws,'' he continued. "We must secure the border.''