Ari­zona AG faces off with Demo­cratic foe in TV de­bate


PHOENIX — At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Brnovich found him­self de­fend­ing the de­ci­sions he made to chal­lenge var­i­ous fed­eral laws, chal­lenges that his Demo­cratic foe said Wed­nes­day worked against the in­ter­ests of av­er­age Ari­zo­nans.

Dur­ing a tele­vised de­bate on KAET-TV, Jan­uary Con­tr­eras lashed out at Brnovich for work­ing to over­turn a de­ci­sion by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to put about a mil­lion acres of fed­eral land near the Grand Canyon off lim­its to min­ing. Fed­eral ap­pel­late judges did not agree with him.

Brnovich has had no bet­ter luck in join­ing with other Repub­li­can at­tor­neys gen­eral to over­turn the Af­ford­able Care Act and its man­date to pro­vide cov­er­age for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

And Brnovich also sided with Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity in chal­leng­ing a Cal­i­for­nia law that would re­quire the or­ga­ni­za­tion, part of the Koch broth­ers net­work, to dis­close its donors.

All that, Con­tr­eras charged, showed that Brnovich was more in­ter­ested dur­ing his four years as at­tor­ney gen­eral in pur­su­ing cases that helped spe­cial in­ter­ests than those that help av­er­age Ari­zo­nans.

Brnovich shot back that Con­tr­eras, a for­mer as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Demo­crat Janet Napoli­tano, would fol­low her own po­lit­i­cal agenda if she was in charge of the of­fice.

His prime ex­am­ple is the chal­lenge his of­fice filed against the Mari­copa com­mu­nity col­leges over the de­ci­sion to charge res­i­dent tu­ition to “dream­ers.’’

“I would not have lit­i­gated that case,’’ Con­tr­eras con­ceded. She said that’s be­cause she be­lieved that they were en­ti­tled to in­state tu­ition if they met other Ari­zona res­i­dency re­quire­ments.

Con­tr­eras pointed out that those ac­cepted into the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram were en­ti­tled by the fed­eral govern­ment to not only re­main but also to work.

But Brnovich said that ig­nores the role of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice.

He pointed out that Ari­zo­nans voted by a 2-1 mar­gin in 2006 to spell out that any per­son who is not a U.S. ci­ti­zen or le­gal res­i­dent, or is “with­out law­ful im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,’’ is in­el­i­gi­ble to be charged the same tu­ition as res­i­dents at state col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

“Even if you don’t like the pol­icy, you have to de­fend it,’’ Brnovich said.

“As pros­e­cu­tors, we en­force the law,’’ he said. “If you don’t like the law, you run for gover­nor, you run for the Leg­is­la­ture or you run for Congress.’’

Ul­ti­mately the Ari­zona Supreme Court sided with Brnovich and con­cluded that DACA re­cip­i­ents are not en­ti­tled to res­i­dent tu­ition.

As to the other cases Brnovich did pur­sue — and lose — the in­cum­bent de­fended his de­ci­sions.

Take the min­ing case where he sup­ported a chal­lenge by the Na­tional Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion to the 2012 de­ci­sion by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to put a 20year mo­ra­to­rium on new min­ing claims around the Grand Canyon. The De­part­ment of In­te­rior said that would pro­vide the time to study the ef­fects of new min­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment, par­tic­u­larly wa­ter qual­ity.

“As Ari­zona’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, when the fed­eral govern­ment and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to uni­lat­er­ally re­move one mil­lion acres of land with­out any con­gres­sional veto, I thought it was im­por­tant,’’ Brnovich said. “We want to make sure we have a check on the fed­eral govern­ment.’’

Con­tr­eras said she has no prob­lem with an at­tor­ney gen­eral seek­ing to ex­er­cise a check on the power of the fed­eral govern­ment. But she ar­gued that Brnovich was choos­ing the wrong is­sues — and the wrong side.


MARK BRNOVICH (LEFT) AND JAN­UARY CON­TR­ERAS (RIGHT) face off Wed­nes­day night in a tele­vised de­bate for at­tor­ney gen­eral with KAET host Ted Si­mons (cen­ter).

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