|Andy Thomas with Tom Dodson|
Electable or not, Andrew Thomas seeks redemption in an unlikely campaign
What has changed since then is the disbarment that turned a once-promising career into a political punchline. A disciplinary panel in 2012 stripped him of his law license after determining that he abused his power as county attorney by pursuing false criminal charges against county supervisors, judges and other political foes. Thomas has long maintained his innocence, describing himself as a martyr who was punished for having the guts to fight illegal immigration and stand up to a corrupt establishment.
Conservative blogger and activist Shane Wikfors, who supported Thomas in his 2010 campaign, said..."I also think he’s trying to send a message that you can’t beat up on Andy Thomas,” Wikfors said. “I think he sees himself as some lone voice in the wilderness as the anti-establishment candidate, as the last remaining candidate who will stand on controversial issues.”
Daniel Caldwell, a former Republican operative who now works for a veterans’ nonprofit organization, said Thomas wants to prove that he’s still a force to be reckoned with in Arizona politics. And he wants to prove he can do it without anyone else’s help.
Public relations consultant Jason Rose, a former Thomas ally who worked on his 2010 race for attorney general, takes a different view. Rose said he is surprised by Thomas’ campaign because he thought it would primarily be an exercise in image rehabilitation. But that is not the case, as far as Rose can tell.
“My observation from the cheap seats is he entered this truly believing he can win,” said Rose, who is supporting Doug Ducey in the governor’s race. “By the way he campaigned, it was not an effort to rehabilitate. It was an effort to win.”
Barnett Lotstein, who worked for Thomas for six years at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said redemption is likely part of Thomas’ motivation. But Thomas wouldn’t be running if he didn’t think he could win, Lotstein said.
“I have no doubt that he believes that he can win. I have no doubt about that at all. He’s a true believer,” Lotstein said.
Thomas has focused on issues that are important to many conservatives, most notably illegal immigration, which consistently polls as the top concern among Republican primary voters, and his support for SB1062, a 2014 bill that advocates touted as protection for religious freedom but opponents characterized as anti-gay.
Thomas was the only GOP gubernatorial candidate who did not call on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the legislation. In his mailer and television ads, Thomas said his opponents caved to the “gay lobby” that he stood up to.
“Andy has a core constituency of the right wing of the Republican Party and Tea Party people,” Lotstein said.
A.J. LaFaro, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party, said Thomas has some salient points, just like the rest of the candidates.
“I think that Mr. Thomas’ message is just as strong as the other candidates or he wouldn’t have gotten into the race,” LaFaro said.
Republican political consultant Constantin Querard said there’s nothing wrong with Thomas’ message in the primary. Other candidates have made illegal immigration centerpieces of their campaigns as well.
Thomas’ problem, Querard said, is that he doesn’t have the money or resources to promote it in a campaign against much better funded opponents.
“If he wants to talk about fighting illegal immigration, he can. But everybody else is. And when Christine Jones does it, she does it with a million-dollar ad buy,” Querard said.
“With so many candidates, the voters might split the vote,” LaFaro said. “There’s people that have said that because Mr. Thomas has such a loyal support base that he may get enough votes to split the difference and run up the middle....