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Heading into November, the spotlight has shone brightly on Arizona’s statewide races.
While our next governor, U.S. senator and attorney general garner the lion’s share of the coverage, about 60% of the state’s residents live in Maricopa County.
The decision voters make for Maricopa County attorney will likely have the greatest impact on our day-to-day lives.
The choice in that race is a stark one.
Rachel Mitchell quickly stabilized the office
Interim County Attorney Rachel Mitchell stabilized the office after a few rocky years. Bill Montgomery resigned from the post in 2019 after taking a seat on the state Supreme Court. Allister Adel was elected the following year but resigned in early 2020 amid controversy, sadly passing away the following month.
Mitchell quickly righted the ship, and Republican primary voters rewarded her with a victory over a crowded field. She’s worked at the office for more than 30 years, strengthening the protection of families and children and becoming a nationally recognized expert on prosecuting sexual crimes.
Her appeal is bipartisan, with Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano naming her “Outstanding Arizona Sexual Assault Prosecutor of the Year” in 2003. Mitchell is a long-serving prosecutor with an admirable track record keeping local residents safe.
Julie Gunnigle views the office much differently
Her opponent has a very different pedigree.
Democratic nominee Julie Gunnigle wants to introduce the disastrous soft-on-crime policies of San Francisco and Los Angeles to the Valley. California’s “reform-minded prosecutors” caused spiking crime rates and social mayhem, but Gunnigle approves of their no-bail, no-jail mindset.
Gunnigle’s performance in an “Arizona Horizon” debate last week didn’t help matters. She insisted she never supported defunding the police, but two years ago called for $25 million to be “reallocated” from Phoenix’s police department budget. That would mean hundreds of Phoenix police employees getting the ax.
Ask Seattle residents how that’s worked out for them; at least those who didn’t flee the city in response.
Even San Francisco voters got fed up with this
Gunnigle promised to form a special division within the office to prosecute police shootings and use of force. She’s even taken shots at fellow Democrat and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, her partner in law enforcement if she is elected.
The fact that her campaign manager made national news for his anti-cop rants doesn’t bode well for public safety.
While she wants to reduce funding for cops and increase their punishment, Gunnigle has pledged to reduce incarceration, push to release offenders before trial, and not to prosecute drug-related offenses.
That nonsense led progressive voters in San Francisco to recall their former top prosecutor, Chesa Boudin. The majority of voters in both parties support police and oppose crime. They expect their county attorney to agree.
Debate moderator Ted Simons asked Gunnigle, “Can you swear to uphold the law and then not prosecute certain laws?"
“Absolutely,” she replied.
I doubt I was the only viewer left confused.
Why recreate that dytopian vision here?
Watching the entire debate (which I highly recommend), it’s clear Gunnigle wants the dystopian vision of San Francisco and Los Angeles recreated right here in Maricopa County. If voters wanted to live under George Gascón, they would have stayed in California instead of moving here in droves.
In contrast, Mitchell has made good use of her brief time as interim county attorney. She has cracked down on gun crimes by requiring mandatory jail time for felony plea deals and launched task forces to tackle organized retail theft and animal abuse.
The office was plagued for years with understaffing, and under Mitchell’s leadership, it is set to halve its vacancy rate by the end of the year.
These are the type of real world results we count on our public officials to achieve, and Mitchell is delivering.
There aren’t many politicians we can say that about these days.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Maricopa County attorney is the easiest vote you'll make