Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic challenger Terry Goddard sparred over illegal immigration and the state's economic troubles during their first and possibly only televised debate Wednesday.
Goddard accused Brewer of damaging Arizona's image and business prospects by giving short shrift to economic development and by portraying the state as a violent place because of border-related crime.
Brewer has failed to take decisive action to create jobs and should have lawmakers in special session right now to craft stimulative tax relief, he said. "This is an emergency."
"Sadly, Arizona, our home, the state we love, is in serious trouble," said Goddard, the state's two-term attorney general. "Jan Brewer said at the beginning (of the debate) that she's changing everything, and sadly that's all too true."
Brewer counterattacked by repeating a campaign charge she first leveled Tuesday. She said Goddard's union supporters were hurting Arizona through a boycott in protest of the state's illegal immigration law.
"I will call you out," she told Goddard. "Maybe you can talk to your union friends about stopping the boycott."
He dismissed her demand, saying he opposes the boycott.
The immigration law, Brewer said, was a needed response to the burdens placed on the state by an influx of illegal immigrations. And, she added, "it has gotten the attention of the federal government."
On the economy, Brewer said her administration was encouraging economic development by attracting business expansions and relocations, and freezing state regulations. She said she did that after taking office and finding the state's finances a mess.
Brewer was the elected secretary of state when she became governor in January 2009. Gov. Janet Napolitano had resigned to join President Barack Obama's Cabinet.
"We have cut the budget, we have balanced the budget, and we are moving forward. We are doing everything that we could possibly do," said Brewer, who in May won voter approval of a temporary sales tax increase. "They listened to Jan Brewer, trusted me and believed in me because of my long record in public service."
But Goddard said Brewer only balanced the budget on paper and that each of the past several fiscal years actually ended with deficits.
Goddard hasn't proposed his own budget-balancing plan, instead merely criticized cuts to spending on popular programs, Brewer said. "You're cut out of the same cloth as the Obama administration -- bigger government and more spending," she told Goddard.
Goddard said he has presented a job-creation plan that will restore the state to economic health. After the debate, he told reporters he plans to offer "suggestions" on balancing the budget.
Brewer later cut short her own post-debate remarks to reporters when she was repeatedly asked about Goddard's demand that she recant a statement she made during a television interview that there had been beheadings in the desert.
Goddard said that remark and others by Brewer hurt the state by inhibiting economic investments and tourism visits.
The debate began awkwardly for Brewer, who paused for at least five seconds in the middle of her opening statement as she collected her thoughts.
Brewer and Goddard were required to participate in the state-sponsored debate, which was aired by KAET-TV of Arizona State University, because their campaigns have accepted public funding.
Green Party nominee Larry Gist and Barry Hess, the Libertarian candidate, also participated in the debate. Their participation was voluntary because neither is accepting public funding for their campaigns.
The recession, not the immigration law, should be the focus of the campaign, Hess said. "It's not the issue when ... people are out of work."
Goddard has challenged Brewer to additional debates, proposing ones devoted to topics such as the state budget, public safety, education, jobs, immigration and border security. His suggested locations included Tucson, Kingman, Sierra Vista, Phoenix, Yuma and Flagstaff.
Goddard's campaign said it hasn't received a response from Brewer's campaign, and the governor's campaign spokesman, Doug Cole, did not flatly reject the challenge Tuesday. But he said the public already knows who Brewer and Goddard are and what their records are.
Goddard was unopposed in the Aug. 24 primary. Brewer cruised to victory with nearly 82 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.