He admitted it's not going to happen.
But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery on Wednesday called on Tom Horne to step down as attorney general. And that makes him the first elected official from Horne's own Republican Party to actually go that far.
Montgomery conceded he's backing Mark Brnovich in the GOP primary against Horne. But Montgomery insisted his call, which started a Twitter war of sorts with a Horne aide, is in the best interests of the state, saying he has “a lack of confidence in his ability to lead an organization of that size.”
Horne responded in kind, pointing out that Montgomery's 2013 investigation into Horne's 2010 political activities was sidelined by a judge who said the county attorney had no jurisdiction in the matter.
“He is losing relevancy as demonstrated by engaging in irrational adolescent Tweets against my staff rather than doing his job,” Horne said in a prepared statement. “Perhaps Bill Montgomery is the one who should resign.”
Several Republicans have previously called on Horne to abandon his bid for reelection amid fears that a divisive GOP primary – one Horne actually might win – would lead to a victory in November by Democrat Felecia Rotellini. Horne narrowly defeated her in 2010.
But that race continues to hang over Horne's head. First Montgomery and, after he was disqualified, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk concluded Horne violated campaign finance laws by coordinating his election bid with what was supposed to be an independent committee.
Horne has appealed that conclusion to Maricopa County Superior Court Crane McClennen, pointing out that an administrative law judge actually found insufficient evidence of collusion, a conclusion that Polk rejected.
Montgomery said that ongoing legal battle is just part of the issue.
Horne is facing complaints by another former staffer that he is currently using his state office and employees in the reelection campaign, and Montgomery noted that Horne was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident after a minor scrape with another vehicle.
“That drip, drip, drip starts to become a steady stream,” Montgomery said.
The online spat started with Stephanie Grisham, Horne's press aide, commenting on Republican gubernatorial hopeful Doug Ducey seeking legal advice from Montgomery instead of her boss. When Montgomery responded that said Ducey could have asked Brnovich, Grisham shot back that her boss is, in fact the attorney general, suggesting Montgomery was more interested in “politics over actually helping the state, I guess.”
“If Tom really wanted to help the state, he would have resigned by now,” Montgomery responded.