- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed nominating petitions Thursday to get on the Republican ballot as a governor’s candidate in the August 26 primary, putting the controversial former prosecutor into a crowded field that could see seven or more candidates on the GOP ballot.

Thomas filed nearly twice the required number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. He also turned in more than enough $5 contributions to qualify for more than $750,000 in public funding for his primary campaign. That cash will make his longshot bid viable, at least as a spoiler for some of the other candidates.

Thomas promised to crack down on illegal immigration. He touted his efforts to do that during his tenure as a prosecutor.

“We’ve gotten tremendous support, and it’s because the people of Arizona want something done about the border,” Thomas said. “They’re tired of the promises. Every two years, we get candidates who promise to secure the border; and they say they’ll stop illegal immigration, and they don’t.”

Thomas has been missing from dozens of candidate forums in recent months, but said Thursday he intends to start attending those events.

Thomas lost his law license in 2012 because of failed corruption investigations that he and county Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched against political opponents. A disciplinary panel disbarred him after finding Thomas had violated the rules of conduct for lawyers in bringing criminal charges against two county officials and a judge in December 2009 with the purpose of embarrassing them.

He’s consistently said he was the victim of a political witch hunt and didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t answer directly when asked Thursday how he would overcome those issues in an election.

“This election is a choice, it’s a series of choices,” Thomas said. “We have a Republican primary in which I believe the people who vote are actually going to care about getting somebody who will stop illegal immigration and who has a record of doing so.

“For a while, illegal immigrants were fleeing this state. We cleared them out of school districts, emergency rooms were finally available for citizens once again, even the traffic got better,” Thomas said. “And now they don’t leave the state anymore. They stay, and they protest. And people get that.”

Thomas served as county attorney from 2005 until he resigned in 2010 to unsuccessfully run for Arizona attorney general.

Thomas is the fourth Republican to officially file qualifying signatures to appear on the ballot. The others are former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and former Go Daddy executive Christine Jones. Three others are expected to file before next Wednesday’s deadline, state Sen. Al Melvin, former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs and state Treasurer Doug Ducey.

Fred DuVal is the only Democrat in the race.

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