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Sun, April 21

Reagan: Arizona has election system it can be ‘proud of’

Incumbent Michele Reagan and Republican challenger Steve Gaynor face off Thursday night at a televised debate on KAET-TV, the Phoenix PBS affiliate, hosted by Ted Simons. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Incumbent Michele Reagan and Republican challenger Steve Gaynor face off Thursday night at a televised debate on KAET-TV, the Phoenix PBS affiliate, hosted by Ted Simons. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

PHOENIX — The contest for secretary of state could boil down to whether voters believe that things are being better run now in the office than they were two years ago.

In a televised debate Thursday night, incumbent Michele Reagan acknowledged that 2016 was “a very bumpy year. That may be an understatement.

At a press conference that year, Attorney General Mark Brnovich unloaded on Reagan for failing to comply with state laws requiring voters to get ballot pamphlets explaining the “issues before they got their actual early ballots. And he said there needs to be an investigation of why Reagan hid that information from the public for weeks.

“This was a complete fiasco,’’ Brnovich said.

“It seems like every time we have an election here it ends up in a goat rope,’’ the attorney general continued. “It’s incredible we can’t get these things right.’’

Reagan conceded the point during the debate, saying the special election was the first statewide race run by her office. But under questioning from host Ted Simons at KAET-TV, she said changes were made.

“Arizona now has an election system that they can be really proud of,’’ Reagan said.

“We’ve had four statewide elections since that incident two and a half years ago,’’ she continued. “And things have gone off swimmingly.’’

But business owner Steve Gaynor, challenging her in the Republican primary, said that’s not good enough, citing a report done following the incident showing that Reagan’s office knew weeks before it told the public that the pamphlets had not gone out on time as required by law.

“What the report shows was that it wasn’t just one error that happened on the 200,000 missed pamphlets,’’ he said,

“It was a series of errors,’’ Gaynor continued. “And then, at the end, instead of (the failure to send out the pamphlets) being publicized immediately it was kind of hidden.’’

Gaynor conceded under questioning he has no actual hands-on knowledge of how to run an election, one of the key duties of secretary of state. But he said his business experience coupled with his study of the office qualifies him for the job. He also lashed out at Reagan for failing to do something about what may be election fraud.

Gaynor cited the lawsuit filed earlier Thursday by attorneys for Pinnacle West Capital Corp. claiming that many of the signatures submitted for a renewable energy petition were invalid and possibly outright forgeries. He said that Reagan, as the chief elections officer, should have done something about it.

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