Consider these statistics:

  1. If Arizona was an independent country, it would have the eighth highest incarceration rate around the world.
  2. From 2017 to 2020, the Maricopa County Attorney’s office declined to prosecute at least 13 referred cases of sexual assault from Arizona State University.

These facts, coupled with a perceived culture of corruption and incompetence (partially exacerbated by the poor health of the late Allister Adel) in the Maricopa County’s Attorney office, have created a groundswell of support for 2020 County Attorney Candidate Julie Gunnigle to run again for the same office in a special election this November.

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The special election has come about because of the resignation of Ms. Adel days before she tragically passed away.

Currently, the Maricopa County Attorney’s office is led by Rachel Mitchell, the special counsel employed by Republican Senators during the Brett Kavanagh Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Declaring her candidacy to run again. Ms. Gunnigle achieved the required number of ballot signatures in less than 24 hours.

If successful, she will work to change the culture at the Maricopa County Attorney office, reform the mission of the prosecutor’s office and restore across the board accountability, and stay out of the private lives of individuals, especially when concerning a woman’s right to choose.

Ms. Gunnigle graciously took the time to respond to questions about her candidacy.

The questions and responses are below.

  • What are at least two reasons you had decided to run again for Maricopa County Attorney?

I’m running again because I still believe in the mission and vision of the campaign that we ran in 2020 which was a bold vision of reform in that office: first, to finally put at end to the culture of corruption that leads to sweetheart deals for the wealthy, police and the well-connected. In addition, I’ll focus on preserving reproductive freedom and justice for all Arizonans.

That’s only part of it.

The other reason I’m running is frankly, voters demanded it. Once news of the resignation broke, I was flooded with texts and calls from people who still believe we can and must do so much better than the status quo. I’m saving some of those text messages forever.

Once I spoke to my family and decided to run, the community really showed up for me.  When I announced, some people asked, ‘do you really think you can get all those signatures in 13 days?’ And then the community turned it around in 21 hours. That’s real enthusiasm. That’s real grassroots. That’s real power.

  • What are these two reasons voters should choose you over Ms. Mitchell?

Voters should choose me if they believe public safety dollars should never be used to police and prosecute personal reproductive decisions, including abortion. That is not a space in which prosecutors belong because it would mean investigating into Arizonan’s most intimate and private lives. It’s unacceptable that any prosecutor even contemplate using the criminal law to invade someone’s private life in that way.

Another reason to vote for me is because I’m the only candidate who will enact badly-needed reforms.

We have a bloated criminal legal system that incarcerates far too many people for far too long at an exorbitant taxpayer cost. A lot of that money is driven by corruption in the system, whether it be private prisons or private services within our public prisons. We waste $1.5 billion a year on a system that does not make us any safer.

We have a real opportunity to transform Arizona into one of the most just, most transparent and safest communities in the nation, but we need to get our priorities straight.”

  • What are these two reasons the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office needs a new direction?

“The biggest reason is that we have been on the wrong track when it comes to public safety for almost 40 years. For too long, the MCAO has behaved as though you can incarcerate the mental illness out of people, as though you can incarcerate the substance use disorder out of people. They lock people up, deny them the rehabilitation and treatments they need, and then wonder why our recidivism rate is more than 50 percent.

It is a system that is not making us safer. I am committed to a bold vision of reform that’s different than the status quo we’ve seen for decades. I’m committed to reforms that treat addiction like the public health emergency that it is. That focuses on connecting folks who commit crimes out of mental illness and related reasons to the treatment that they need and deserve, so that police aren’t arresting them for the same unaddressed issues time and again. It means that we treat people like people who deserve an opportunity for rehabilitation and productive participation in our community. The current MCAO doesn’t mind throwing millions of tax dollars down the drain every year by sticking to ineffective policies because they are invested more than anything in protecting the status quo, not in protecting the community.”

Is there anything you’d like to add?

“I would like to hit you with some stats too, because I don’t think that we can talk about a system as bloated as the County Attorney’s Office, which this year is asking for $1.5 billion from the state budget, without knowing the facts:

Arizona is the fifth largest incarcerator in the country, eighth largest in the world. In the world! Frankly, that should be shocking.”

  • What are three issues you feel are important to pursue if elected to become the next Maricopa County Attorney?

There are three main issues this campaign is focused on because they’re what voters and residents care about:

They care about the chronic corruption in that office, and it’s a culture of corruption that takes different forms: it’s the 180 cases that were simply dropped because the office is taking your taxpayer money, but not doing its job.

It’s framing protestors with false allegations and charging innocent people with crimes that could have put them away for over a hundred years in one instance.

It’s giving former Department of Corrections head Charles Ryan a sweetheart deal that no ordinary citizen would enjoy despite a three-hour drunken, armed standoff with Tempe police.

The public wants to see corruption rooted out of the office and for the County Attorney to ensure the same standards of justice apply evenly, whether you’re wealthy, well-connected, police or just an average citizen, like you or I.

The public wants to see more accountability when it comes to police. We have the U.S. Department of Justice in town investigating misconduct in the law enforcement system, while at the same time, the Phoenix Police Department continues to be the most violent police force in the country. People are tired of seeing a two-tiered system of justice when it comes to accountability and they want to make sure that police are keeping them safe, doing their job and when they’re not doing their job, that they’re held accountable.

Lastly, this race is about protecting reproductive rights. It is not an understatement to say that with fetal personhood as the law in Arizona, the fall of Roe means almost immediately that people seeking an abortion or even an IUD could be prosecuted as a murderer, which carries the potential for a death sentence.

Under these unjust laws. I’m not going to get involved in people’s private and personal lives.

Are there, are there any other issues that you would like to talk about?

Ensuring that that we’re using the criminal legal system responsibly.

So, it’s things like making sure that we have a functional conviction, integrity unit in the office. That we have a no call list of officers who have demonstrated their inability to tell the truth on a stand. That we have a functional Brady List, such that the media, like ABC 15 doesn’t have to do the justice work on behalf of victims that’s not being done by our government.

Another area of great concern is that Phoenix PD actually has one of the lowest clearance rates of sexual assault in the nation.

It’s under nine percent.

What that means to the average citizen is that when someone is brave enough to say ‘this happened to me’ and report, when they are brave enough to step forward, less than nine percent of the time does it actually lead to arrest. Then, once those few arrests go through the criminal legal system, fewer than two percent actually result in a conviction. In other words, the way it is now, we’re not pursuing justice and we’re not keeping people safe.

When we’re talking about those populations, especially our most marginalized populations, we need to start talking about the reality that when Roe v. Wade falls, it would be more likely that a rape victim who gets an abortion will be prosecuted than the person who was their attacker. That’s unacceptable to me.

The current county attorney is not acting to keep us safe right now – not just through our high incarceration rates but in which cases are not pursued.”

  • Is there anything not covered in the first four questions you would like readers to know about you or your candidacy for Maricopa County Attorney?

“I do want readers to know a little bit about who I am, why this race is so important to me and how I plan to represent the community.

I am a wife. I’m a mom of three school-aged children who are all in our public schools.

I’m an attorney going on her 17th year of practice. I was trained at the University of Notre Dame and a lot of my work in the past as a prosecutor involved financial crime and public corruption, quite literally holding public officials of both parties accountable when they stole public funds.

So, I bring to this position not only a wealth of legal experience, but also a wealth of experience working alongside and advocating for the community. After Proposition 207 passed legalizing recreational cannabis, I spearheaded expungement efforts to give people a real second chance, to clear the records of cannabis convictions. We organized lawyers and clinics all over the state. At the same time, I’m currently the legal director for the Arizona Poor People’s campaign where we hold landlords accountable when they’re engaging in unjustified evictions of residents.

For going on two decades, I’ve been on the frontlines fighting for the people. That’s how I intend to run this office: fighting for the people, not for political cronies. Up to now, this office’s biggest problem is that it has been so removed from the needs of community and unresponsive for so long that once we actually start to seek communities’ perspectives – not politicians, real community members – it’s going to be a breath of fresh air for the mission and vision of that office.”

Please visit the below social media sites to find out more about Julie Gunnigle and her candidacy for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office.

Facebook: Julie Gunnigle 2022

Twitter: @JulieGunnigle
Instagram: JulieGunnigleAZ

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