When political junkies last read about Julie Gunnigle on the Blog for Arizona, she, along with Jennifer Samuels and Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko, were knocking on thousands of household doors in Legislative District 15, hoping to win seats in the Arizona State Legislature during the 2018 elections.
While they did not prevail, they markedly helped increase turnout in the district and learned valuable experience in running a political campaign.
Ms. Gunnigle, a practicing attorney who is experienced in various facets of law, has decided to build on the experience from the 2018 campaign and launch an effort to become the first woman to win the office of Maricopa County Attorney.
The office, currently occupied by conservative Bill Montgomery (who is currently attempting to persuade Governor Doug Ducey to put him on the Arizona Supreme Court), is roughly the equivalent of a district attorneys office with prosecutors and licensed investigators assigned to pursue criminal and civil matters.
Among the criminal matters the County Attorney’s office handles are:
- Organized Crime
- Special Victims (including domestic violence and sexual assault)
- Juvenile Incidents
Among the civil cases the County Attorney’s office handles are:
- Tax Appeals
- Environmental Enforcement
- Public records requests
- Providing counsel for employees in other county offices.
The office also has divisions designed to assist victims and community outreach.
Ms. Gunnigle will have to win her parties nomination first before facing the Republican nominee.
At the Starbucks at Tatum and Paradise Valley Mall, she sat down and answered several questions about her candidacy and what she would like to accomplish as the next Maricopa County Attorney.
The questions and her responses are below:
- Please tell the reader about yourself and give at least two reasons you are qualified to serve as the next Maricopa County Attorney?
“I am a wife, a mom, and a former prosecutor of politicians. I grew up in Maricopa County and I currently live a mile from my childhood home. I hold a degree in Chemistry from NAU, and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Notre Dame Law School. After law school, I prosecuted in a small county in Indiana and then moved to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office where I was in the Financial Crime and Public Corruption Bureau. Among other cases, I was on the indictment team for the highest-ranking official ever indicted in the history of the office.”
“I moved back to Arizona in 2011 and started advocating for better funding for our public schools. In the process, I saw the same sorts of conflicts of interest and self-dealing that I was prosecuting in Chicago, happening openly in our government. For this reason, I decided to run for office.”
“I am uniquely qualified to serve as the next Maricopa County Attorney. First, we need someone in that position who understands how transformative this office could be in the right hands. From the elimination of cash bail to ending our incarceration crisis, real criminal justice reform in our communities must start with the County Attorney’s Office. Second, we need someone in this position who is tough, smart, and fair. We need to be tough on the crime that matters most, like violent crime, crimes against women, children, and the elderly, and public corruption. We need someone who will be smarter in their approach to incarceration and reentry. Today alone, our state will pay $550,000 to incarcerate people whose most serious offense is drug-related. The mass incarceration crisis that this office has participated in is not a smart use of resources and is not financially or morally responsible. Last, we need someone who will be fair. This office has a history of retaining prosecutors who are known sexual harassers and discriminating against LGBTQ couples. I am running to bring this blend of tough, smart and fair to the office. Between my criminal prosecution experience, experience as a professor, and civil law background, I can transform this office to a place that does justice do for the people of Maricopa County.
- Please tell the reader what are at least two duties of the Maricopa County Attorney?
“The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the country. It is responsible for the prosecution of all of the state law-based felonies in Maricopa County, and the prosecution of misdemeanors in all of the unincorporated areas”
“The office also advises the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and has significant civil law responsibilities. You may remember when Maricopa County stopped offering legal assistance to LGBTQ couples seeking to adopt, or the decision —that decision came from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.”
- Please tell the reader at least two reasons you would be a better County Attorney than the current County Attorney?
“Our current County Attorney is on the wrong side of history. From blocking LGBTQ adoption services to employing known sexual harassers, we need a change.”
“Second, our County Attorney has done nothing for police accountability. I view this office as critical to ensure that police are honest, fair, and use fore appropriately.”
- If elected, what will be at least two goals you will have as Maricopa County Attorney?
“The first is meaningful criminal justice reform. Arizona is not unique in that we have crime. The way our government has chosen to respond to crime is, however, uniquely outdated and not evidence-based. First on my agenda is sentencing reform, the elimination of cash bail, halting the prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses, and a comprehensive review of all pending death penalty cases. I would take the steps necessary to stop to the criminalization of poverty and addiction, by treating these issues as the public health crisis they are.”
“Second, I would change the culture at the County Attorney’s Office. This office lacks transparency. From slow-walking public records requests to failing to track important data like plea bargains and enhancements, there are so many ways that this office could better serve its constituents.”
- What would you like the voters to know about yourself that was not covered in the preceding questions
“Yes, I am very concerned about the fall of Roe v. Wade and Arizona’s trigger law. On the day Roe falls, abortion will become a felony in Arizona and advertising contraceptives will become a misdemeanor. Know that when I become County Attorney, I will ensure that no person in Arizona will face criminal sanctions for their private healthcare decisions”
Julie Gunnigle is one of many dynamic Democrats who have emerged over the last two years to take on the backward reactionary movement of the Republican Party.
In order for Arizona to fully move forward again, public servants who believe in inclusiveness, equality, and the good of the people need to win office in order to promote these ideals.
Julie Gunnigle is a candidate for Maricopa County Attorney that voters should consider when voting in 2020.