Mitchell declares victory in the Maricopa County Attorney's race; Gunnigle concedes

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Incumbent Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell declared victory Monday morning over challenger Julie Gunnigle in the midterm election.

Her lead was up to 83,000 after the last large batch of votes was counted Monday evening. There are no more than about 14,500 votes remaining to be counted.

Mitchell tweeted out her thanks to supporters and the community, saying she is "deeply honored" by the support and trust in her leadership.

Shortly after Mitchell tweeted out her win,Gunnigle conceded. The race "isn't the result we were hoping for," she said in a statement.

Gunnigle, a reform-minded Democrat, said her Republican opponent's win means "a continuation of the legacy of corruption within the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Maricopa County residents deserve better."

Voters faced a clear choice between two divergent approaches to criminal justice in the Maricopa County attorney's race.

It pitted Republican Mitchell, the current county attorney who was appointed after the resignation of Allister Adel, against Gunnigle, an outsider and critic of the agency.

Adel’s departure triggered a special election to select who would serve out the remainder of her term, which ends on Jan. 1, 2025.

Full election results may not be available for several days. Early results can flip as later votes are counted. The preferences of early voters, in-person Election Day voters and those who drop off their ballots at the polls all could differ.

Early on election day, a spokesperson for Gunnigle said her team was spread out across the Valley talking to voters.

"We've knocked thousands of doors, Julie has met and talked directly with tens of thousands of voters across the county, and we've consistently found that people know about the pattern of corruption and collusion in the MCAO," said Gunnigle spokesperson Dawn Penich. "Julie ran a race that stayed true to her values, stayed rooted in community, uplifted other candidates at the down ballot, and showed what a Gunnigle-led MCAO would be like: honest, transparent, and responsive to community."

Election coverage: Arizona election results

Penich said the Gunnigle team thought it would be a close race, and they were not expecting final results Tuesday night.

Mitchell campaign spokesman Bobby Charette said before polls closed the Mitchell team feels confident in the campaign they've run.

"Rachel has crisscrossed Maricopa County for the last seven months, cleared the backlog of cases, and brought confidence to the office," Charette said. "Voters across the county agree that safe neighborhoods are a top priority, and they are supporting Rachel because she is the only candidate with the experience and results that have kept our communities safe."

Mitchell has served as a bureau chief at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office overseeing teams of prosecutors, notably the sex-crimes bureau. That experience led her to be tapped by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to question witnesses during the hearing over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

Gunnigle has worked as a private practice attorney in the areas of civil and appellate litigation, administrative law and professional licensing. She was a prosecutor in Indiana between 2006 and 2007 and in Illinois from 2009 to 2011. Gunnigle previously ran for county attorney but lost to Adel in the 2020 general election.

While Mitchell touts more than 30 years of experience working in the agency she hopes to lead, Gunnigle, with more limited prosecution experience, has leaned into the outsider role, promising to reform what she has labeled as a corrupt institution.

Gunnigle, Mitchell: Maricopa Co. attorney candidates talk abortion, incarceration rates

Gunnigle has outlined priorities for criminal justice reforms that largely echoed her 2020 campaign. Gunnigle has said she wants to stop over-incarceration and pledged to make expungement of marijuana convictions universal and automatic. She is the only candidate to say she would not prosecute abortion or birth control-related cases in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“This race is critical," Mitchell told The Arizona Republic in July. "Gun crime, homicides, organized retail theft, and drug trafficking are impacting neighborhoods across our nation. The safety of our community depends on a county attorney who will prosecute dangerous criminals. However, I also lead an office that embraces the philosophy that those who are suffering from mental illness or substance abuse have access to services when appropriate so they can become contributing members of society.”

Mitchell has branded herself as the “police supported” candidate, receiving an endorsement from the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police. Gunnigle is endorsed by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which she says is a first for a prosecutor’s race candidate and is reflective of her support for universal and automatic expungement for marijuana convictions.

Have a news tip on the County Attorney's Office? Reach the reporter at jjenkins@arizonarepublic.com or at 812-243-5582. Follow him on Twitter @JimmyJenkins.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Mitchell defeats Gunnigle in race for Maricopa County attorney