Oct 21, 2022 - Politics

Maricopa County Attorney: It's Rachel Mitchell vs. Julie Gunnigle

Photo illustration of Julie Gunnigle and Rachel Mitchell.

Julie Gunnigle (left) and Rachel Mitchell. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Julie Gunnigle for Maricopa County Attorney, Rachel Mitchell for Maricopa County Attorney

This year's Maricopa County Attorney's race has turned into a proxy vote on the future of criminal justice, law enforcement and abortion rights in our region.

Why it matters: County attorneys prosecute almost all criminal cases and decide whether police officers face charges in use-of-force cases.

State of play: The late Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel resigned in March. The Board of Supervisors appointed Republican Rachel Mitchell to take over. She is running to keep the position.

  • Mitchell, a veteran of the office, gained national attention as the GOP investigative counsel during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination hearing.
  • Her Democratic challenger, Julie Gunnigle, is a former Illinois prosecutor who has practiced and taught law in Arizona. She most recently worked as the political director of AZ NORML, a marijuana reform advocacy group. She lost to Adel in 2020.


Mitchell: She's been noncommittal about prosecuting doctors and others who facilitate abortions.

  • She's said she won't prosecute women who seek abortions, though Arizona law already doesn't criminalize women. She said in a recent debate that it's not "responsible to say" whether or not she'd charge doctors or others before reviewing specific cases.

Gunnigle: She's made her commitment to not prosecute under the state's abortion laws the centerpiece of her campaign.

  • She's said without condition she will not bring charges against women, doctors or their support networks for making "private and personal healthcare decisions."

Crime and law enforcement:

Mitchell: She's endorsed by the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police and has said she will work with local law enforcement agencies to "ensure dangerous criminals are held accountable."

  • She's characterized Gunnigle as soft on crime because of her association with people who want to defund and reform police departments.

Gunnigle: In July, Gunnigle wouldn't tell Axios Phoenix whether she supports defunding the police, calling it a "distraction" and saying the county attorney doesn't make decisions about police funding.

  • She's attacked Mitchell for her ties to police unions, saying they create a conflict of interest because the county attorney is responsible for deciding whether to prosecute officers in use-of-force cases.

Criminal justice:

Mitchell: She says she will fight to restore trust with crime victims by employing "highly qualified individuals fighting for justice on their behalf."

  • Mitchell says she has "prosecuted hundreds of cases and fought to strengthen laws for crimes against children and sex assault."

Gunnigle: Criminal justice reform and police accountability is a major element of Gunnigle's platform.

  • She says she will ensure officers "only use force appropriately," enact sentencing reform, expedite marijuana expungement, reform drug prosecution policies and more.

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