Meet the Arizona DA Candidate Who Wants To Prosecute Cops, Not Criminals

Julie Gunnigle's soft-on-crime platform involves attacking police

Failed Arizona DA candidate Julie Gunnigle (D.) / YouTube
September 6, 2022

A Democratic district attorney candidate in Arizona has an interesting pitch for voters: Elect me and I'll prosecute cops, not criminals.

Julie Gunnigle, who is running in a special election for Maricopa County attorney this November, has pledged to form a special division within her office to prosecute police shootings and use of force. The move would put the county attorney at odds with members of local law enforcement, with whom the prosecutor’s office must regularly cooperate on cases. Gunnigle will take an easier tack with criminals. She has pledged not to prosecute drug-related offenses, reduce incarceration, and push to release offenders before trial.

Gunnigle’s anti-cop pledge comes as crime rises in Arizona and across the country. In Phoenix, Maricopa County’s largest municipality, crime was up more than 40 percent in 2020 and stayed nearly as high the following year. Amid rising crime, voters have soured on progressive prosecutors like San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin, whom voters ousted in June. Like Boudin and other progressive prosecutors, Gunnigle has taken money from the left-wing billionaire George Soros. She received $6,550 from Way to Lead PAC last quarter, to which Soros’s Democracy PAC has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Gunnigle opposes police unions and told Axios she turned down their campaign funding in order to win Planned Parenthood’s support in Arizona. She says if elected she will not prosecute abortion cases under a 15-week abortion ban Arizona governor Doug Ducey (R.) signed into law in March.

A spokeswoman for Gunnigle's campaign said the prosecutor believes that "Arizona residents deserve a County Attorney who can multitask—holding bad actors in the government accountable while using data and evidence to actually improve safety for regular people."

Running on a similar platform in 2020, Gunnigle lost her first race for county attorney to Republican incumbent Allister Adel. She promised during the campaign to reopen past cases of police officer-involved deaths, among other reform efforts. After losing her race, Gunnigle in 2021 served on the board of a marijuana-legalization advocacy group.

Adel, whose tenure as Maricopa County attorney was marked by alcoholism, resigned in March, prompting a special election this year.

Gunnigle’s opponent is Rachel Mitchell (R.), who has served as acting county attorney since Adel’s resignation. Mitchell is best known for her role in the 2018 Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. An expert on sex crimes, she noted inconsistencies in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh and said "a reasonable prosecutor" would never have taken up the case. Mitchell has served for decades as a prosecutor in Maricopa County.

Gunnigle has criticized Mitchell for her role in the hearings, saying her opponent "fought tooth and nail to install Kavanaugh."

Gunnigle’s campaign manager, Bruce Franks, has advocated for defunding police departments. Gunnigle has not answered questions about defunding police and said the issue is a "distraction."

Franks, a self-described "battle rapper," rose to prominence as a member of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of Michael Brown. He served as a Democrat in the state legislature from 2016 to 2019 before resigning to focus on his "mental health." Months later, an ethics probe found Franks spent thousands from campaign funds on his personal expenses. He was fined $14,000.