Terry Goddard struck out Wednesday night at incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer, saying if she wants someone to blame for a drop in tourism she should look in the mirror.
During a televised debate, Brewer repeated her contention that the unions that support Democrats like Goddard are creating problems by urging people to boycott Arizona.
But Goddard shot back that far more economic damage is done by comments Brewer has made, both in local and national media, about the violent crime caused by illegal immigration and specifically that headless bodies are being found in the desert.
"Those are false statements,'' he said.
"They cause people to think that Arizona is a dangerous place,'' he continued. "And they don't come here and they don't invest here because our governor said such negative things about our state.''
After the debate, Brewer ignored repeated questions from reporters about her statements about beheadings and why she has neither provided proof or recanted the story. Instead, her security detail ushered her into the elevator at KAET-TV where the show was taped.
Goddard, who has been state attorney general since 2003, said the record shows that violent crime actually is down in Arizona.
Brewer, however, said Arizonans are not safe.
As proof she pointed to a sign the Bureau of Land Management erected near Gila Bend which says, ``Danger -- Public Warning -- Travel Not Recommended.'' It says this is an ``active drug-and human-smuggling area'' and visitors ``may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed.''
On the broader issue of SB 1070, Goddard said Brewer herself has conceded that the law, designed to give police more tools to arrest illegal immigrants, does nothing to actually secure the international border. Some provisions took effect July 29; a federal judge enjoined others until there can be a trial.
Brewer, however, said Goddard is ignoring what could be its biggest impact.
``Obviously, it's gotten the attention of the federal government,'' she said. That included a face-to-face meeting with President Obama, his unilateral decision to put 1,200 soldiers along the border and Congress approving $600 million for enhanced border security.
While illegal immigration was the focus of much of the hour-long debate, Goddard pushed the conversation to the economy which his campaign contends is the issue more likely to get him elected in November.
He said the state has lost 128,000 jobs since Brewer took office in January 2009 after her predecessor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, quit to take a job in the Obama administration.
Brewer countered that said she inherited a "huge mess'' from Napolitano.
"Arizona was headed into bankruptcy,'' she said. "And then came the recession.''
Goddard conceded part of the point.
"She made some mistakes,'' he said of Napolitano. The former governor pushed through new spending programs, approved tax cuts and then was forced to balance the budget with accounting maneuvers and borrowing.
"But she's gone,'' Goddard continued about Napolitano, saying Brewer "needs to take responsibility for what she has done.''
More to the point, Goddard said, is what Brewer has not done.
He said she has yet to put a full-blown plan to balance the budget before the Legislature. Instead, Goddard said, the budget hasn't even been technically "balanced'' even with sharp spending cuts, especially on education, along with borrowing and pushing through a temporary one-cent hike in state sales taxes.
Brewer said she was proud of having convinced voters in May to approve that. She said they realized that, without the extra nearly $1 billion a year, the state would have been forced to make even deeper cuts in critical programs.
Goddard, who eventually agreed to support Proposition 100, said voters had no choice since Brewer had not come up with a different plan to balance the budget.
"For Jan Brewer taking credit for saving education with Prop. 100 is like taking credit for saving someone from the water when you're the ones that pushed them in,'' he said.
Brewer and Goddard agreed there is a role for private prisons. But Goddard said there has been a lack of oversight which culminated in the escape of three violent felons from a private prison in Kingman -- including two murderers -- with one of them and his accomplice linked to the killing of a couple in New Mexico before being caught. He said the state put 400 dangerous felons there even though it was designed for convicted drunk drivers.
Brewer, however, said the escape was due to "human error'' and people have been replaced.
That escape made an impression on Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Barry Hess.
"I'm all about privatization,'' he said. But Hess said he now believes that their use is appropriate only for drunk drivers and minor offenders.
"The state should be in control of its prisons,'' Hess said.
Brewer and Goddard also sparred over the issue of the new federal health care law and, specifically, the refusal of Goddard to join with attorneys general from other states to sue the Obama administration and Congress for approving it.
"It didn't stack up as a legal proposition,'' said Goddard, saying he believes it is constitutional. He also said the plan will financially benefit the state -- albeit in the long run -- with additional federal aid.
But Brewer said the measure is not only unconstitutional and costly for the state in the immediate future. She said the mandate to obtain health coverage also is a bad idea.
"It is inherently wrong for the federal government to tell the people of Arizona that you have got to buy something, and if you don't, we're going to penalize you,'' she said.