Arizona's Democratic attorney general withdraws from defending immigration law

I tweeted the link and instantly angry conservatives started demanding a recall petition. The good news: Arizona does allow recalls! The bad news: It looks like this guy didn’t so much withdraw as he was forced out by Jan Brewer. From the Arizona Republic:

Attorney General Terry Goddard has decided not to represent the state in any lawsuits related to Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s tough new immigration law…

The governor sent a letter to Goddard on Monday, formally asking him to step aside, saying his previously state opposition to the immigration bill gave him a conflict of interest in the case.

She has already hired outside counsel from the Phoenix law firm Snell & Wilmer to defend her in the suits. She is named as a defendant in four of the five cases.

Goddard, meanwhile, had maintained that the governor’s move to remove him from the defense was an infringement on his rights as attorney general.

Here’s the PDF of his letter to her. Take two minutes to read it, as it’s only a page and a half long and lays out his argument succinctly. In a nutshell, he’s willing to defend a law he disagrees with (and, he says, has done so before, as has virtually any prosecutor), but if she’s going to sue him to try to remove him from the case — under a provision in the new law that isn’t even in effect yet, mind you — then it’s probably best if he steps aside and lets her do what she wants. Any reason to think he’s being sincere in saying all that? Yeah: As we’ve noted repeatedly on this site, Arizona’s law is popular nationwide and really popular in Arizona. Any reason why Goddard should care about its popularity? Why, yes: He’s the Democratic nominee for governor in the fall. And his Republican opponent is — ta da — Jan Brewer, who leads him by 13 points after the surge in support she got from signing the immigration bill into law. Depending upon how cynical you are, Brewer’s either worried that Goddard will try to lose the case so that her big political triumph is nullified in court or he’ll try to win the case and claim some of the glory she’s earned by supporting it. Whichever it is, it’s hard to see why Goddard wouldn’t want to be leading the defense.