September 3, 2004
Two Democrats running for Maricopa County attorney blasted each other Thursday at the last public debate before Tuesday’s primary.
Before a crowd of more than 100 attorneys and members of the public, Don Harris charged that his opponent, former Mesa police officer Jonathan Warshaw, was "not a proper police officer" during his five years on the force.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Harris has posted a reprimand Warshaw’s superiors gave him in 1997 for getting into a second at-fault crash.
Warshaw started the sparring, however, when he said Harris exaggerated in his campaign literature about his ties to Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris.
"He’s never heard of Don Harris," Warshaw said.
Some bitterness also was evident among the four Republicans who also attended the event in downtown Phoenix, sponsored by the Maricopa County Bar Association.
Republican candidates Andrew Thomas and Andrew Pacheco, considered frontrunners, said they had previous engagements and did not make the debate.
Harris was put on the defensive when Warshaw pointed out that Harris was recently fined $15,720 for a campaign finance violation. Scottsdale attorney Bob Melton, who was hired as an independent counsel to review the claim, found that Harris collected more than $5,000 in political contributions before he filed as an official candidate.
Harris has maintained that while he accepts responsibility for submitting his campaign paperwork a month late, the fault lies with one of his campaign workers. He has until Sept. 16 to appeal the finding.
Experience has become a major issue between the two Democratic candidates, with each saying they have the right stuff for the job. Harris, 66, touted the death penalty and other "major" cases he tried as a prosecutor in the late 1960s, his service as a temporary judge and his fivemonth appointment in 1976 as the county attorney. He also is a former U.S. Marine officer and Vietnam veteran.
Warshaw, 37, said his dual career as police officer and prosecutor makes him the most qualified.