Can the real "radical" in the race for Maricopa County Attorney's Office please stand up?
On September 30, the reelection campaign for Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel published new ads on the web and TV painting her Democratic challenger, Julie Gunnigle, as a "radical" from both liberal and conservative standpoints. The ads claim Gunnigle wants to defund police departments and knock her for allegedly seeking excessive bail in cases she worked as a prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois. It slams her as a "Chicago-Style Politician" who was "hand-picked by national progressive organizations" that want to "dismantle our judicial system."
Weeks later, Gunnigle is hitting back with nearly identical rhetoric. Her campaign rolled out its own website that slams Adel as a conservative "radical" who's similar to her right-wing predecessor, Bill Montgomery, and "out of step" with Maricopa County voters. The website dings her for saying she would have an "obligation to enforce the law" if abortion were made illegal in Arizona, and slaps her for being relatively slow to call for broader use of body cameras by law enforcement.
Romero did not respond to Phoenix New Times' request for comment on Gunnigle's new website. Asked earlier this week about claims that Adel would prosecute women seeking abortions or local providers if the law changed, Lorna Romero, a spokesperson for the Adel campaign, wrote in an email that Adel will "not prosecute a woman for their health care decisions."
Both websites have nearly identical URLs: After Adel went with "reformervsradical.com" and Gunnigle snagged "reformerversusradical.com."
Reached by phone, Marcus Ismael, a spokesperson for the Gunnigle campaign, said that the nearly identical rhetoric was intentional as a response to Adel's original attack on Gunnigle.
"She was the first to come out with an attack site, and this is sort of a way to respond to that," he said. "She wants to play a little bit of a dark turn in a race for the office that is about enforcing the law and going after criminals, the campaign thought 'well, why not?'"
The rhetoric featured in both campaigns' websites lines up with the broader trend in the race for Maricopa County Attorney of both the Republican incumbent, Adel, and her Democratic challenger, Gunnigle, framing themselves as reformers and doing away with more traditional "tough-on-crime" rhetoric that was long a staple in Maricopa County politics. Adel has made some reforms to the office, such as making the county's drug diversion program more affordable, but Gunnigle and other critics charge that the moves are too little, too late, and are motivated by her reelection effort.
Gunnigle and Adel will be going head-to-head tonight in a debate that will be televised on Arizona PBS (Channel 8) at 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The debate will also be streamed live.
Update: Romero got back later in the day, after publication, with the following response from Adel's campaign:
"Julie Gunnigle's campaign is best described in one word: desperate. After failing as a part-time prosecutor in Chicago, failing as a dean at a now-defunct law school and failing as a legislative candidate, Julie is trying every desperate measure to hide the fact that she is completely unqualified for this job. Julie has zero record of accomplishment and is now adopting Allister's platform since she is unable to develop a unique thought of her own."