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Obama Invitation to Black-Tie Dinner Spurned by Arizona’s

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Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who faced off with President Barack Obama on an airport tarmac last month, won’t attend the National Governors Association annual black-tie dinner at the White House today.

Brewer said in an interview yesterday that she had a scheduling conflict.

“I’ve just decided I wasn’t going to be going because I had some other commitments I had to attend to,” Brewer said.

On Jan. 25, Brewer, a Republican, greeted the Democratic president in Phoenix with a letter asking for a meeting on Arizona’s economy and suggesting they visit the U.S.-Mexico border. The two talked closely for several minutes and Brewer was photographed with her finger pointing in Obama’s direction. She later said she habitually talks with her hands.

“The tarmac issue was a little distorted rather than reported probably the way that it actually happened,” she told reporters yesterday.

The National Governors Association dinner is a highlight of its annual winter meeting, said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican.

“When the president of the United States invites the governors to come to a formal dinner, you don’t turn him down, OK?” Branstad said. “My youngest son is going with me. It’s a nice honor. I’m not going to deny that for my son.”

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is a frequent Obama critic, will fly into Washington today for the dinner after skipping the NGA’s meetings on job creation, health care and other topics.

White House spokeswoman Jamie Smith declined to comment on Brewer’s absence.

Brewer, who dined at the White House last year and will attend a policy discussion with other governors and Obama on Feb. 27, laughed when asked to identify her scheduling conflict.

A spokesman, Matthew Benson, declined to say whether the conflict was state business or personal.

“We’re not going to get into our schedule,” Benson said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Washington at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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