Keep Goddard on the job
As was the case in 2002, the race for attorney general pits Terry Goddard, a veteran of decades of public policy and political life, against a relative newcomer - a young, bright, conservative Republican attorney largely unknown to the public.

And again, Goddard is the choice for attorney general on Nov. 7. He's better prepared, more experienced and can point to a very solid record of accomplishment.

Goddard, a Democrat, has shown the same crusading zeal for protecting consumers and attacking financial fraud that his predecessors showed. But he also has exhibited a conscientious respect for the underlying but unglamorous duties of the office: providing competent legal counsel to numerous state agencies.

His opponent, Bill Montgomery, is an attractive candidate - just not for this office at this time. A West Point graduate, Montgomery served in Desert Shield, then moved to Arizona in 1998 to pursue a law degree and start a family. Before the campaign, he worked for the Crime Victim Assistance Program. He's active in his community in Gilbert.

Lamentably, Montgomery's campaign has been built on a somewhat misleading premise, hammering Goddard on rising crime rates and promising to combat it. Fighting street crime is not the function of the attorney general. It's the job of the sheriff or county attorney or police chief. But crime makes better headlines and politics than describing the deliberative work of running the state's largest law firm.

In contrast, Goddard, a former mayor of Phoenix, has won national recognition through solid accomplishments, starting with his laudable and historic efforts to clean up polygamy in Colorado City.

For years, authorities knew of the shame and scandal thriving in Colorado City, where, under the cover of religious freedom, an isolated sect of monsters carried on a medieval abuse of children.

But few dared to take on the sect. And those who did, failed. The polygamists heading the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints laughed at state and federal laws and continued forcing young women - girls - into "marriages" with elders. They even subsidized their perverse cult with public funds.

That has changed because Goddard, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith did not walk away, did not turn their backs and did not fail in their lengthy, difficult pursuit of justice. Cult leader Warren Jeffs now sits in jail in Utah.

Among other accomplishments:
  • Goddard's office won fraud convictions against Baptist Foundation of Arizona executives in a case in which thousands of investors lost an estimated $585 million after the financial collapse of a massive real estate Ponzi scheme.

  • Rebuffed by the state Legislature on his statewide methamphetamine program, Goddard has pushed local governments to adopt sensible regulations on the sale of the over-the-counter drugs used in making meth. The program has made a difference. It would be even better if it were a comprehensive, statewide program.

  • AG investigators have targeted large money transfers suspected of financing human smuggling cartels in Sonora, Mexico. Arizona, the busiest sector for the entry of undocumented workers from Mexico, is widely considered the most aggressive in trying to disrupt the business of such trafficking, with stings, seizures and financial tracking.
Finally, Goddard has earned grudging admiration for his legal opinions, which generally have followed a "let the chips fall where they may" interpretation.

Goddard has been a solid attorney general. He deserves re-election.
Originally published October 16, 2006