The ACLU of Arizona is going to spend nearly $1 million to inform 300,000 registered voters about the Maricopa County Attorney’s race.
Analise Ortiz, campaign strategist for the ACLU of Arizona, said the total is closer to $850,000 and will be evenly distributed between campaign mailers, digital advertising and phone banking. She said the spending has been ongoing since the August 4 primary election, where only the Democratic race was competitive, but the bulk of the money will come for the general election between appointed incumbent Allister Adel, the Republican, and her Democratic challenger, Julie Gunnigle.
“It will be a nonpartisan voter education effort to inform voters about the importance of this race and policy differences between the two candidates,” Ortiz said.
The County Attorney race is widely seen as one of the most competitive races in Arizona this election cycle where the county, which has one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the nation, has an open seat for a full four-year term and is guaranteed to elect the first woman to lead the office.
The ACLU does not endorse candidates, and Ortiz said the progressive organization’s efforts will only aim to inform voters on who is running, what the office does and oversees and what issues are on the ballot this year.
“There is so much at stake when it comes to reproductive freedom in the county attorney’s race and the reason for that is because Roe v. Wade is at risk,” Ortiz said, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett who the left believes will be the deciding vote to overturn the landmark 1973 decision that protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
“It’s very important to understand how states respond to reproductive freedom –– and what we know is, in Arizona, if Roe is overturned, abortion could become illegal,” she said.
Ortiz said when Gunnigle was asked in March, she committed to not prosecuting abortion whereas Adel said she has an ethical and legal obligation to enforce the law.
To help address other issues for the two candidates, Ortiz said the ACLU is relying on a questionnaire the group sent candidates during the primary, but Adel did not participate. The other issues they want voters to know are ending prosecution for low-level drug offenses and creating a completely independent prosecuting unit for cases of police brutality.
On marijuana charges, Ortiz did mention how a ballot initiative, Proposition 207 –– formerly known as Smart and Safe Arizona, is on the ballot and would decriminalize marijuana up to 2.5 ounces and create a path for record expungement which does not currently exist in state law.
Ortiz reiterated that this voter outreach program will be “policy driven” rather than candidate driven, since the ACLU does not endorse candidates.
“We really want to push both candidates to commit to ending the prosecutions of low level marijuana offenses … to commit to creating an independent prosecutor unit for cases of police brutality [and] we want voters to be aware that if Roe is overturned, their county attorney could charge someone with a crime for seeking an abortion,” Ortiz said.