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Candidates spend big for Maricopa County Attorney race

elections, Maricopa County attorney, Gunnigle, Mitchell

Some Maricopa County Attorney candidates spent a lot of money for Arizona’s 2022 primary elections, which will take place Aug. 2.

Some Maricopa County Attorney candidates spent big ahead of Arizona’s 2022 primary elections. One candidate is saving her donations.

Democrat Julie Gunnigle has received the most money in the county attorney’s race and spent the least.

“When I saw those numbers post, all I could feel was just gratitude,” Gunnigle said. “The community has really shown up for me in a powerful way.”

Gunnigle, a solo legal practitioner, is a former Cook County, Illinois, assistant state’s attorney who spent the last several years prosecuting criminal, administrative and civil cases in Arizona. She ran for Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in 2020, losing by under 2% of the vote. Gunnigle is currently the legal director for the Arizona Poor People’s Campaign and a former political director for Arizona NORML, the nonprofit cannabis advocacy organization.

Julie Gunnigle

Her campaign recently reported having $166,000, or 24 times more cash-on-hand than her next competitor. About 86 percent of Gunnigle’s campaign contributions are $100 or less. Her biggest expenses are to firms, such as Washington, D.C.-based TPW Consultants LLC.

Gunnigle has paid almost $25,000 in consulting fees to political activist Bruce Franks Jr., a former Missouri state legislator, who marched with other Black Lives Matter protesters through city streets to the Phoenix Police Headquarters. She said the office needs somebody with “a diverse set of experiences,” including legal defense.

“I’ve not only had a change of heart since 10 years ago, I’ve had a change of heart just in the last two years,” Gunnigle said. “Spending so much time with directly impacted people, listening to the activists on the ground and what they’re saying. As a result, I’m a changed person. But it also changes the way I have to lead this office.”

Notable donors include Phoenix Councilperson Yassamin Ansari, local union organizers and actor Mark Ruffalo, who on a Mass Liberation Arizona livestream called for dropped charges in the summer 2020 protest case.

Maricopa County has 2,470,087 registered voters, or about twice the population of Hawaii, as of July 1, according to the County Recorder’s Office.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutorial race on any ballot in the United States this year. August 2 primary election results will reveal which of the three candidates will take their parties into the general election this November.

Former county attorney Allister Adel vacated the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in late March due to health concerns. Her resignation followed years of misconduct and controversy at the office, including multiple state bar investigations. Adel died in April.

“One of the reasons why this office has retention issues, and is having recruiting issues, is that nobody wants their name, as an attorney, tied to scandal after scandal out of this office,” Gunnigle said. “I think starting with the ethical duties of the prosecutor is the absolute first thing that we need to do to start earning that trust.”

Within 24 hours of Adel’s resignation, Gunnigle gathered the more than 4,200 signatures she needed to get on the ballot. Gunnigle said 15,000 people are signed up to volunteer with her campaign.

Godbehere, elections, county attorney

Gina Godbehere

Former Goodyear city prosecutor Gina Godbehere secured enough signatures to run on the Republican party ticket the next day. Before announcing her candidacy, she was previously the MCAO bureau chief of community-based prosecutions and the criminal trial division for 15-years.

Godbehere started the Arizona youth conference Speak Up Stand Up Save a Life in 2016 with former Pendergast Elementary School District Superintendent Lily DeBlieux.

The organization, which focuses on “missed warning signs,” for suicide, started with a 10,000-student attendance and sees “exponential growth,” she said. It often has events in different Valley cities, recently in El Mirage, “to try to tie parents and school members” to prevention resources.

“All I care about is saving lives now and also preventing tragedies down the road,” Godbehere said. “That’s only going to come if we deal with the issues that everybody, if we look around, knows are taking place right now in our criminal justice system.”

She was last spring a board member of the Arizona Bar Foundation and sits on the House Ad Hoc Committee on Teen Mental Health, which met for the first time in July. Godbehere said when she is county attorney she will continue “to seek clarification from the legislature of what the current law is,” on charges related to the state’s abortion ban.

Godbehere’s campaign received almost $92,000, nearly 50% of which was spent on Summit Consulting Group, of Phoenix. Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) PAC donated $15,000 in early May. Gina for Maricopa has over $15,300 in cash.

Notable contributors include Goodyear Councilperson Laura Kaino and other county attorneys.

Arizona state law states that since Adel resigned before the primary election filing deadline of April 4, a primary and general will be held to elect a new county attorney until the January 2025 term end.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to appoint Rachel Mitchell for interim county attorney, which state law mandates be filled by the same party as Adel. Advocates asked for a more public appointment process.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell

Mitchell pursued Office responsibilities as the acting county attorney in 2019 after Bill Montgomery was moved to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The incumbent, who previously ran the Special Victims Division, served as investigations counsel during Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearings. Mitchell said her experience in “sexually violent persons prosecutions,” to which civil rules apply, allows her to “grasp the issues,” and “give very solid advice on them.”

Her campaign raised nearly $243,000, of which about $6,800 remains. Mitchell’s biggest expenses include $108,197 to Intrepid Public Affairs, $23,700 to GOP political ad strategist Metzner Media, of Maryland, and $11,187 to Google for ads.

“Even though I am running the office and fundraising and campaigning, I was able to out raise [Godbehere] three to one,” Mitchell said. “And I think that is reflective not only of the ability to run a successful campaign, but it’s also reflective of the breadth of support that I have.”

Mitchell for Maricopa paid $5,847 to Diane Burns of Apache Junction, who runs a professional petition gathering company, in early April. Republican Annie Foster, who is a member of the Federalist Society, serves as Gov. Doug Ducey’s general counsel. She dropped out of the race in late April to support Mitchell, who said the gesture was “invaluable.”

In her new role, Mitchell said she’s looked at claims of wrongful convictions, ethical violations for attorneys and accusations of police misconduct. In 2020, she created the MCAO Prosecutions Integrity Unit, which reviews concerns of police misconduct. She is the chair of the Children’s Justice Task Force and a member of the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force.

Voting locations in Maricopa County began to open July 6; on Election Day polls open at 6 a.m. Visit BeBallotReady.Vote to check your voting registration. July 26 was the last day to mail in ballots.

 

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