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Maricopa County Elections: Adel Hospitalized and Trailing Gunnigle

Democrat Julie Gunnigle (left) is challenging Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel for her seat.
Democrat Julie Gunnigle (left) is challenging Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel for her seat.
Allister Adel's reelection campaign & Ash Ponders

Update November 4: According to Jennifer Liewer, spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Allister Adel "underwent emergency surgery for bleeding to the brain" on November 3. "She is currently in serious but stable condition. Her family is grateful for the outpouring of support and asks for continued prayers for Allister. This is understandably a very difficult situation and we ask that their privacy be respected at this time."

Original article follows:

Republican incumbent Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, currently trailing Democratic challenger Julie Gunnigle in election totals, was reportedly hospitalized on Tuesday night.

Early returns put Gunnigle ahead 52 to 48 percent as of 11:30 p.m. in the race for the top spot in the nation's third-largest prosecutor's office.

But an hour before then, reports emerged that Adel had been taken to a hospital. Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the County Attorney's Office, said that Adel was "admitted to the hospital for a health emergency." She added that the situation is "fluid" and there is "limited information to share."

Nothing more was said on Tuesday about her condition.

Ballot-counting continued that could still put Adel ahead. The Maricopa County Recorder's Office is still waiting on results from about 167,000 in-person ballots, 248,000 uncounted early ballots, and 10,000 provisional ballots, as well as early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day. Generally, Republicans are banking on in-person and early ballots submitted late to trend their way in a number of races.

Despite Maricopa County's typically red reputation, criminal justice reform was on the ballot in this race. Both Adel and Gunnigle framed themselves as reformers and traditional tough-on-crime rhetoric was relatively absent from either candidates' messaging — a marked departure from past players in Maricopa County politics.

Adel was appointed to the position in 2019 after her predecessor, Bill Montgomery, took a seat on the state Supreme Court. While Montgomery, for instance, ardently opposed legalizing cannabis and opposed sentencing law reform, Adel attempted to distance herself from her punitive predecessor by implementing some changes such as overhauling the county's drug diversion program to make it more affordable and creating a unit to investigate wrongful convictions. But she also didn't stray too far from the Republican base, criticizing Gunnigle as a "radical" who wants to defund the police and close prisons. Her pitch basically was, "I'm also not my predecessor but I'm no lefty radical."

Meanwhile, Democrat Julie Gunnigle, a former prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois who was born and raised in Maricopa County, came hard at Adel from her left. She advocated for eliminating the use of cash bail, dismissing low-level marijuana possession cases, establishing a unit dedicated to prosecuting police misconduct, and slammed Adel for deciding not to charge the Department of Public Safety Trooper who shot and killed Dion Johnson on May 25, the same day George Floyd was killed by a Minnesota officer. Progressives rallied behind Gunnigle in arguing that Adel's reforms were insufficient. Adel's critics also pointed to controversial prosecutions orchestrated by her office, such as pursuing an eight-year prison sentence for a man accused of returning a rental car late and filing gang charges against anti-police brutality protesters in Phoenix.

The race garnered significant attention. Singer John Legend, who has also been a vocal supporter of criminal justice reform, endorsed Gunnigle prior to the election while the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona dropped nearly $1 million on a so-called "nonpartisan voter education" ad and phone banking effort that not-so-subtly showcased the organizations' preference for Gunnigle's policy agenda.

Sheriff

As of election night, Democratic incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone holds a comfortable lead over Jerry Sheridan, a Republican and former deputy of infamous former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The Democratic sheriff raked in 59 percent to Sheridan's 41 percent — a decisive election night margin for Penzone.

This year's race for Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was one of the quieter contests on the ballot. Penzone famously beat Arpaio in the 2016 election. The former longtime sheriff tried to get his old job back again this year but come up short in the 2020 Republican primary election, losing to his old chief deputy, Sheridan. With Arpaio out of the picture, Penzone looked like a shoo-in.

Sheridan, who was once considered a long-shot candidate, has tried to distance himself from Arpaio — he previously called court mandated reforms imposed during Arpaio's tenure "crap" and "ludicrous" — while also sticking to conventional law-and-order rhetoric.

Conversely, Penzone's campaign used every chance they got to tie Sheridan to his old boss while framing Penzone as a stable and conventional sheriff with bipartisan support, and who doesn't generate Arpaio-level bad headlines. But Penzone's tenure has still been marked with controversy; his office is currently being sued for failing to adhere to proper COVID-19 mitigation protocols inside county jails, for instance. And both Penzone and Sheridan shared the same position that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents should be able to screen the immigration status of new county jail inmates at booking.

Scroll down for more Maricopa County races and election results as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday:

Board of Supervisors

District 1

Incumbent Jack Sellers (Republican): 46%

Jevin Hodge (Democrat): 54%

District 2

Incumbent Steve Chucri (Republican): 57%

Deedra Abbdoud (Democrat): 43%

District 3

Incumbent Bill Gates (Republican): 47%

Whitney Walker (Democrat): 53%

District 4

Incumbent Clint Hickman (Republican): 56%

Suzanne Story (Democrat): 44%

District 5

Incumbent Steve Gallardo (Democrat running unopposed): 100%

Recorder

Incumbent Adrian Fontes (Democrat): 53%

Stephen Richer (Republican): 47%

Assessor

Incumbent Eddie Cook (Republican): 51%

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Aaron Connor (Democrat): 49%

Treasurer

John Allen (Republican): 49%

Daniel Toporek (Democrat): 51%

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