Rachel Mitchell spins political gold in her tiff with New York attorney Alvin Bragg

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell answers reporters' questions during a news conference on June 28, 2022.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell answers reporters' questions during a news conference on June 28, 2022.
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This may come as no surprise, but the savviest politician is in the state right now certainly is not Kari Lake, who is digging herself into an ever-deeper hole with the McCain wing of her party.

It is not Gov. Katie Hobbs, though she has learned from her rocky first year as evidenced by her recent embrace of home-cooked tamales.

And it is certainly not Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who mistakenly thought Arizona voters wanted centrist lawmakers who could get stuff done.

No, the politician spinning electoral gold right now is Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell.

Rachel Mitchell ran afoul of MAGA

Mitchell is a law-and-order prosecutor who spent decades putting away sex criminals.

She was appointed county attorney in 2022, upon the implosion of Allister Adel, then handily won election to the job later that year, while Lake and the rest of Trump's America First slate lost.

She’s a traditional, conservative Republican of that increasingly rare variety that elevates fact over conspiracy theory.

Which is how she came to be not only defending Maricopa County against Lake’s election challenges but asking a judge to order Team Lake to pay the county’s legal expenses after losing not one but two trials.

For daring to try to hold Lake accountable, she was censured by far right Maricopa County’s Republican Committee, which in June put out a call to “motivated and qualified Republicans" to challenge her.

Mitchell refused to extradite a criminal

Enter Gina Godbehere.

The longtime prosecutor who lost to Mitchell in 2022 is making another run, saying the county “deserves a brave leader who will confront rising crime, restore trust in cherished institutions and ensure justice and accountability for all.”

No less than the MAGA queen herself, Lake, is supporting Godbehere, urging people to sign her nominating petition “if you want corruption rooted-out and real criminals prosecuted.”

This week, Mitchell outmaneuvered Lake and the party’s far-right braintrust, announcing she would not extradite Raad Almansoori to New York, where he is wanted for bludgeoning a woman to death earlier this month.

Almansoori was arrested in Surprise over the weekend after the non-fatal stabbing of two women.

“Having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg, I think it’s safer to keep him here and keep him in custody,” Mitchell announced.

She got huge props from 'Fox and Friends'

It was a brilliant political move — never mind that she was just following state law.

Mitchell took a swipe at a liberal prosecutor who has faced conservative backlash for refusing to hold suspects on bail or even prosecute certain low-level offenses.

And bonus points — he’s the prosecutor who will try Trump next month on charges that he falsified records to hide hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Democrats would love: This Rachel Mitchell matchup

Bragg helpfully amplified Mitchell’s message, with his office pronouncing it “deeply disturbing that D.A. Mitchell is playing political games in a murder investigation.”

And the story blew up, winning her write ups in the national press and an all-important date on Thursday with “Fox and Friends,” where host Ainsley Earhardt fairly fawned over her.

“On behalf of the women around the country, thank you so much for being so strong,” Earhardt gushed.

Mitchell's opponent is left fuming

Mitchell’s response to Bragg’s complaint must’ve sounded like a veritable symphony to the ears of Republican voters.

“I’m putting the victims first and making sure that he (Almansoori) stays in custody … ,” Mitchell told Earhardt. “It was just a couple of weeks ago that some of the illegal immigrants that were in New York City who beat up on police officers were let go.

“They were flipping the camera off as they walked out of jail, and guess where they ended up? Four of them ended up in Maricopa County, and they had to be taken into custody here. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want this individual getting out and able to victimize more people.”

It was a slam-dunk score for a candidate facing a daunting challenge in a primary where the far right dominates.

Don’t think so? Consider the reaction of Godbehere when the story blew up on Wednesday.

“NO MORE EXCUSES!” she fumed on social media. “We deserve BETTER than Maricopa County Attorney @rachel1mitchell who FINALLY SHOWS UP during election season by merely following standard protocol that allows her to prosecute a violent offender here FIRST.

“She wants PROPS for merely doing her job?!?

“MCAO has ALWAYS tried violent felons here first before allowing extradition to outside jurisdictions to give victims their day in court. We’re NOT BUYING THIS ATTEMPT to recover from her disastrous week! ...”

The irony, of course is that it was actually a great week for Mitchell and that is exactly what she did.

Her job.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @LaurieRoberts or on Threads at @laurierobertsaz.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Rachel Mitchell's tiff with NY makes her Arizona's savviest politician