By David M. Greenwald
Phoenix, Ariz. – In November 2020, while all eyes were watching the Presidential returns in Maricopa County to see if Biden would hold his narrow lead over Trump, Republican Allister Adel narrowly defeated Democrat Julie Gunnigle to win the prosecutor’s office by a narrow 37,000 votes (less than one percent) in the nation’s fourth largest county.
However, Adel’s term has been wracked by controversy with absences and questions about her sobriety. Under pressure, she announced on Monday that she was resigning.
“Today I announce my decision to resign as the Maricopa County Attorney effective Friday, March 25, 2022 at 5 pm,” she said in a statement. “Voters supported me in the November 2020 as the first woman elected to be Maricopa County Attorney and it is an honor I will always cherish.”
That was on Monday. The Vanguard caught up with Gunnigle on Wednesday, who had already qualified for the Democratic primary. Gunnigle ran as a reformer in 2020, attempting to become the first Democrat elected as Maricopa County Prosecutor.
“I’m not even sure I’d use the word crazy,” she told the Vanguard. “It looks more historic than anything else.”
Amazingly, had Adel waited until April 5, it would have allowed the Board of Supervisors to appoint someone to the fulfill the rest of her term.
“Potentially people saw this coming, I didn’t,” Gunnigle explained. “I saw that a resignation was going to be eminent. You can’t continue in this office having those kinds of issues, and promoting the same kind of corruption, lies and collusion that have become the legacy of that office.”
But she said, “I was shocked on Monday when I started receiving those texts, that, that it had actually happened with time for the voters to choose a new county attorney.”
What that meant is that it triggered a special election with a primary on August 2 and a General in November.
The crazy part, she explained, is “candidates had to get over 4000 signatures in order to make the ballot.”
Last time, it took her an entire summer to do that.
“Last time that I ran, it took us every minute from summertime of 2019 when I declared to March of 2020 when I had when I ended up filing to get those signatures to make the ballot,” she said. “This time it took us 21 hours. So that is huge. I think that speaks to the magnitude of the movement in Maricopa county and a real understanding of the power and the promise of this position.”
The timeline was stunning. Around noon, she said she started receiving text messages and she said for a period of time she could not even place a phone call because the phone was blowing up.
By 4 pm on Monday, she filed her statement of interest to run. By 7 pm, they had set up the E-QUAL system to digitally verify signatures through a portal.
“So at 7 pm we started collecting signatures. By 3:30 (Tuesday) we reached the threshold, the maximum that you can gather,” she explained. “It’s shocking.”
At this point there are about four people who are actively gathering signatures. Gunnigle is the only Democrat.
“This goes to a traditional primary process to fulfill the remainder of the four year term,” she said. “That means that if the Republicans are able to get anybody onto the ballot with that number of signatures—I suspect there’ll be at least one—then they’ll be a primary on that side and then from there, the general.”
Gunnigle explained, “I think voters now understand how mission-critical this office is and just the sheer power that it wields over the four million people here.”
Still, she was amazed that she qualified for the ballot as quickly as she did.
“I have no earthly idea,” she said, how she was able to do it so quickly. “One of the things that I’ve been doing since losing the election is continuing my work in the community.”
One thing she has done is spearheaded expungement, which included writing software to help people clear their felony records.
“I’ve been working with renters, trying to keep them in their homes during the eviction crisis,” she said. “I’ve been continuously involved and continue just to show up for people. Yesterday they showed up for me, that is the only explanation I can come up with because that level of enthusiasm is absolutely unprecedented.”