The next Maricopa County Attorney will come from a pool of eight applicants, all of whom say they will run in 2020 if appointed.
The deadline to apply for the appointment to replace the county’s former chief prosecutor, Bill Montgomery, who was appointed Sept. 4 to the Supreme Court, was Sept. 18 and the county website posted the eight candidates who applied.
Acting-County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor who questioned Christine Blasey Ford during U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing last year, Jon Eliason and Gina Godbehere are the only candidates who currently work in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The remaining applicants are Allister Adel, the former-executive director of the Maricopa County Bar Association; Lacy Cooper, a U.S. Attorney; Chris DeRose, the former-appointed Maricopa County Clerk who lost in the 2018 Republican primary; Rodney Glassman, serial candidate who previously ran unsuccessfully for the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2018; and John Kaites, an attorney who ran for Arizona Attorney General in 1999, but lost in the primary to Tom McGovern.
All eight applicants vowed they would seek election in 2020 if appointed. Mitchell said in her application she would run even if not appointed, and DeRose filed to run with the County Recorder’s Office on September 10. Godbehere said she already has a campaign team assembled.
The ACLU of Arizona, along with 15 advocacy organizations and lawmakers, sent a letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday listing off their qualifications for the new County Attorney, and also asking that they appoint someone who will not seek election.
“Voters should be allowed to fairly decide who their next county attorney will be. Status as an incumbent will give the interim county attorney an unfair advantage in a contentious race when the voters of Maricopa County will not have had a say in their appointment,” the letter stated.
While the ACLU does not support or oppose candidates, the group actively campaigned against Montgomery’s eventual appointment to the state Supreme Court, even playing a contributable role in his failure to advance on the governor’s interview list on his first attempt at the job.
The candidates, as part of the process, will now be vetted by a seven-member citizen’s committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors and on October 1 will send recommendations. The Board, however, does not have to accept the recommendation and can appoint any of the eight applicants.
Part of the vetting process involves – among other things – reviewing resumes, letters of recommendation, and questionnaires and maybe even interviewing candidates.
Glassman chose Senate President Karen Fann as a reference, Kaites chose his 1999 political opponents, McGovern and former-Gov. Janet Napolitano as two of his, Adel picked Justice Clint Bolick as one of hers, and Mitchell picked U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey as one of hers, to name a few.
Whomever the Board appoints within the coming weeks will likely be considered the GOP favorite in the 2020 election and face off against one of the Democratic candidates who have filed to run: Julie Gunnigle, Robert McWhirter, Ryan Tait or Tamika Wooten.
In 2016, Montgomery won in the slimmest margin for that race in years only edging out political newcomer – at the time – Diego Rodgriguez, who now represents Legislative District 27 in the Arizona House.