PHOENIX (AP) - Republican State Sen. Michele Reagan and Democratic former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard sparred over the state's new two-tier voting system, changes to elections laws and even a vetoed bill that drew the ire of supporters of gay rights in a secretary of state's race debate Tuesday.
The secretary of state is Arizona's top elections officer, oversees business filings and becomes governor if there's a midterm vacancy in that office.
The most contentious moments of the televised debate came when Goddard attacked Reagan for her vote for Senate Bill 1062, a bill passed by the Legislature as a religious rights law but which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer after it almost cost the state the Super Bowl because of fears it legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Reagan called it one "bad vote" out of 10,000 she's made in her 12 years in the Legislature.
"So I think it's kind of inappropriate and perhaps a little unfair to go and cherry-pick, in a little half-hour program, to cherry-pick a couple of votes," Reagan said. "What would 1062 have to be discriminatory about elections?"
Goddard, who repeatedly said he wants to restore the public's trust by eliminating partisanship in the secretary of state's office, says it shows she can't be trusted to be nondiscriminatory.
"Equal rights is a package," Goddard said. "I think we know from experience in the Deep South in the civil rights era that access to a lunch counter, access to an equal seat on the bus and voting rights are all tied up in the same package."
Reagan said Goddard was using her vote on 1062 to bring a message of "hyper-partisanship" and make people upset.
"And that's the kind of stuff that turns people off from politics, from public policy,
from government, the exact opposite of what a secretary of state or secretary of state candidate should be doing," Reagan said.
Reagan and Goddard also sparred over changes to the state's early voting list, which were included in a now-repealed 2013 election overhaul law Reagan helped pass.
"It would have taken somebody who missed only one election in a sequence of four and put them on the list to be purged." Goddard said, noting there's a dispute in how many elections were to be missed before removal.
"I think that if people aren't voting and aren't using their early ballots then yes they should be removed from the list if they don't vote in a lengthy period of time," Reagan said. She said her bill required missing four elections.
The two took opposite positions on Arizona's system of blocking voters using a federal registration form from casting ballots in state races. Arizona set up the system and is using it for the first time this year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state must accept a federal form that doesn't require proof of citizenship. Arizona and Kansas are in court trying to force the federal commission that created the form to allow citizenship proof.
Goddard said the state should have waited until the court made the decision instead of spending $2 million to set up a separate system that just 21 voters used in August's primary.
"This is an issue we didn't have to do, and it cost us a whole lot of money in a state that is strapped for cash," Goddard said.
Reagan said Arizona voters required proof of citizenship and the state had to act.
"Unfortunately it was needed in this election, and hopefully it will not be needed after the courts decide what to do," Reagan said.