Arizona Republic endorses Tim Nelson for County Attorney

ACLU TimThe Republic’s endorsement of ACLU Tim Nelson for County Attorney was so predictable that Andrew Thomas didn’t even bother interviewing with the Republic’s editorial board. Same with Sheriff Arpaio, knowing the Republic already had its mind made up to endorse their opponents.

The Republic’s endorsement of Nelson ran in Sunday’s Republic, and consisted of little more than repeating the Republic’s prior slanted reporting on Thomas. “By his own volition – by one embarrassing pratfall and misstep after the next – Thomas has made the case for his opponent this fall, Democrat Tim Nelson.” No, according to the Republic Thomas has made mistakes. According to the voters of Maricopa County, who he is accountable to, he has done an excellent job, with approval ratings comparable to Sheriff Arpaio and higher than Mayor Gordon and Governor Napolitano among voters who have heard of him. The voters know he has kept his campaign promises on illegal immigration, cracking down on sex crimes, and repeat offenders.

The Republic claims that Nelson won’t be as partisan as Thomas. How is that? Nelson has been a top-level legal advisor to Democrat Governor Napolitano not only at the Governor’s Office but at the Attorney General’s Office before that. He has done pro bono work for the left wing ACLU and is proud of it. That work included suing the City of Gilbert over declaring Bible Week. His campaign is funded by some of the biggest Democrats in the county, including far left Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. He is backed by numerous labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, SEIU and UFCW. On his website, he promotes issues commonly associated with the partisan left agenda – investigating racial profiling.

Even though over 70% of those voting in Arizona vote in favor of laws against illegal immigration, Nelson agrees with the far left and opposes prosecuting illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves across the border. As an advisor to Governor Napolitano, Nelson has advised her to veto popular bills against illegal immigration.

Thomas is labeled as a partisan simply for upholding illegal immigration laws? Who is reflecting the will of Arizonans? Thomas. Who is representing the will of the far left Arizona Republic (which veered increasingly to the left beginning with Keven Willey in the early 2000’s and now is no less liberal than the New York Times with Randy Lovely at the helm) and the fringe left wing? Nelson. Nelson is showing no traction during his campaign against Thomas among the public, because Nelson doesn’t represent the average Arizonan.

The Republic claims that Arpaio’s crime suppression sweeps aren’t improving border security, but the paper fails to provide any evidence to back this up. In fact, the paper’s own articles have reported the opposite – that crime has been going down since Thomas took office and Arpaio began his crime suppression sweeps. In the first half of 2008, the Phoenix Police reported that every single category of crime recorded had decreased, with the violent crime rate dropping 8.5%, the lowest in the past 10 years. Homicides fell 25.7%, motor vehicle thefts plunged 29%, and aggravated assaults dropped 14.2%. Arson cases dropped 12% and property crimes fell 10.4%.

The Republic says that Sheriff Arpaio is chasing after “gardeners and assistant bakers.” Funny, I don’t remember reading about any gardeners or assistant bakers Arpaio has investigated. The Republic never let the facts get in the way of a good line! Arpaio is simply investigating reports of criminal activity as they are reported to his office.

Next the Republic criticizes Thomas for spending more money on outside counsel, instead of handling certain cases in-house. The Republic conveniently omits the fact that Thomas is saving the county money long-term, by hiring expert lawyers who have the resources to litigate time-intensive inmate lawsuits fully to conclusion, instead of settling them, which allows unresolved issues to be brought up again and again in future lawsuits. The Republic also ignored the fact that Thomas has saved the office money in other ways, by reducing the size of the office (there are less employees there now than when Thomas entered office in 2005, even though Maricopa County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country). This past year, Thomas returned $2 million in unused money to county coffers. That was conveniently omitted from the Republic’s editorial. I’m sure if Thomas had showed up for an editorial board interview and pointed this out, it would have still been omitted.

The editorial notes that some of Thomas’s campaign contributors were attorneys who do civil work for his office – but never notes that is common and there is nothing unethical about it, those same attorneys gave money to prior County Attorney Rick Romley. Nor does the article note that numerous criminal defense attorneys who currently oppose the office in court gave money to Tim Nelson’s campaign.

Thomas’s plead to the lead and other tough plea policies are stealthily criticized, “Nelson would treat his county attorneys as the professionals they are and permit them to use their experience and discretion when deciding whether to accept a defendant’s plea to a lesser crime.” Nowhere is it explained that giving this kind of discretion means going back to softer plea policies. Considering crime rates are finally falling all around the county in every area of recorded crime, going back to soft plea policies would be a mistake.

The editorial claims that Thomas’s tough plea policies result in more cases going to trial, “further burdening an already strained legal system.” This isn’t true. Thomas returned $2 million in funding this past year. And under his tenure, the average time it takes to prosecute a felony has shrunk from 87 to 37 days – even though Maricopa County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Other similarly sized counties take over 90 days to prosecute a felony. Under Thomas, the office has become smaller and more efficient.

Finally, and appropriately coming from a newspaper as dishonest as the Republic, the paper declares that Nelson is qualified since he directed “dozens of state attorneys from the Governor’s Office.” This is inaccurate. As counsel to the Governor, Nelson advised the Governor and her staff, not the dozens of other state agencies. Those state agencies are represented by the Attorney General’s Office as well as their own in-house attorneys. Not surprising that the Republic is using something completely wrong as a reason to support Nelson.


  1. Wow. Hard hitting stuff, as usual Pat. Really contributing to the blogosphere with this insight. Less rhetoric, more analysis please.

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