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The race for attorney general has turned into a spat over which candidate’s experience makes that person a more appropriate choice.

Republican Mark Brnovich cites his legal background working for Maricopa County, the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also had been director of the Arizona Department of Gaming, which oversees tribal casinos, a post he quit when he decided to run for office.

Democrat Felecia Rotellini was in private trial practice before her own stint with the Attorney General’s Office, followed by heading the state Department of Financial Institutions which regulates mortgage companies and state-chartered banks. She has been back in private practice since 2009, interrupted briefly by an unsuccessful run for the same office four years ago.

That leaves the question of who is best qualified to head the state’s largest law firm.

Most of the work involves representing state agencies and defending them in hearings and lawsuits. But there also are times when the office is in a more active role, like filing lawsuits over consumer fraud, discrimination and financial misdeeds.

Rotellini contends that makes her the better fit, citing her role in investigating and bringing suit against the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen over its role in helping Baptist Foundation of Arizona hide its true financial condition from investors.

Brnovich, however, focuses on her time as the state’s banking chief, claiming that mortgage fraud increased rapidly under her tenure. And he said after Rotellini left that agency she went to work for a law firm that represents banks.

As for his own qualifications, Brnovich said Arizona needs someone at the top who actually has argued a criminal case before a jury. He does not dispute that most criminal cases are handled by county prosecutors but said the state does have a role when it comes to major issues like fighting drug cartels.

Rotellini said voters should instead look at the fact that Brnovich lobbied for the Corrections Corporation of America. That company successfully defeated legislation that would have barred private prison firms from bringing certain violent offenders from other states into Arizona.

Each also has made allegations about the other’s loyalties.

Brnovich contends that Rotellini would not properly defend the state against the Obama administration, ranging from new environmental regulations to defending Arizona laws designed to deal with illegal immigration.

Rotellini, for her part, says Brnovich would be doing the bidding of social conservative groups such as the Center for Arizona Policy and Arizona Right to Life, and not defend the right of women to terminate a pregnancy.


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