Several Maricopa-area lawyers are vying to replace County Attorney Allister Adel, who announced her departure from the elected office less than a month before the filing deadline for candidates to seeking to run to replace her.
The move has imposed significant time pressures on would-be office-holders, who must each collect 4,300 unique, valid signatures before the April 4 deadline. Since voters can only sign one candidate’s petition in the race, the candidates are quickly trying to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
The seven-way race is composed of five Republicans, one Libertarian, and one Democrat – only one of whom has qualified to appear on the ballot.
Republican Rachel Mitchell (pictured above, right) arguably has the most name recognition. She made headlines with her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the nomination hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Mitchell, who practiced in the Maricopa County Attorney’s office (MCAO) sex crimes bureau for years, famously told the Senate Judiciary Committee that after examining all of the evidence from Christine Blasey Ford accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her, she would not have brought charges against him.
Mitchell was one of five bureau chiefs at MCAO who sent a memo to Adel demanding her resignation. The long time attorney served under previous Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery as his chief deputy, and led the office for a few weeks after he left until the Maricopa County Supervisors appointed Adel as his replacement. She is endorsed by former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley. Mitchell refers to herself as a “lifelong conservative” and plays drums for her church.
Gina Godbehere (pictured above, left) is a Republican who also worked as a prosecutor for MCAO for more than two decades. She is currently a prosecutor for the city of Goodyear. She has spent much of her career involved in the community, including founding “Speak Up Stand Up Save a Life,” which addresses societal issues such as substance abuse, bullying, and the rising teen suicide rate in Arizona. She describes herself as “a strong supporter of Law Enforcement.”
Anni Foster is a Republican serving as Gov. Doug Ducey’s general counsel. She previously served as the general counsel for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and as an assistant attorney general. Her community involvement includes volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America and her church. Foster describes herself as “a strong conservative who will never let Maricopa County become like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, or other major metropolitan areas.”
James Austin Woods, son of the late Grant Woods, a moderate who served as Arizona Attorney General, is also running as a Republican. He owns his own law firm, specializing in criminal and dependency law. He reportedly talked to Cindy McCain, the late Sen. John McCain’s widow, who encouraged him to run.
Libertarian Michael Kielsky has run for the office multiple times previously, on a platform of eliminating prosecution for victimless crimes. He is currently a solo practitioner known for his successful representation of motorists who receive camera speeding and red-light tickets.
Julie Gunnigle, the sole Democrat running in the seven-way field, is the only candidate so far who has collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The self-described “local loudmouth attorney and activist” is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, AFSCME, and the American Federation of Teachers. She worked as the political director for the Arizona chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. She also taught at the now-defunct Arizona Summit Law School, which closed its doors in 2018 amid financial struggles and low state bar exam passage rates. She ran for the state legislature in 2018 and lost, placing a distant fourth among four candidates. In 2020, she narrowly lost to Adel by two percentage points.
Gunnigle says she supports decriminalizing prostitution and ending bail. Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Britt London told Chamber Business News that Gunnigle “has spent countless months making false allegations about the men and women who serve in law enforcement, supported the Defund Police movement here in Phoenix, and is backed by organizations that want to completely dismantle police departments.”
The Maricopa County Supervisors will be appointing an interim county attorney soon. Candidates’ petitions may be found online at the Arizona Secretary of State’s office here.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Gina Godbehere” by Gina Godbehere and photo “Julie Gunnigle” by Julie Gunnigle.